Dilution and column-based protein refolding techniques are compared for refolding Δ 5 -3-ketosteroid isomerase (KSI) with a C-terminus his 6 -tag. Column refolding was performed by removing the denaturant while the protein was adsorbed in an immobilized metal affinity chromatography column. Both dilution refolding and a single-step column-based refolding strategy were optimized to maximize the recovery of KSI enzyme activity, and achieved refolding yields of 87% and 70% respectively. It was found that the column-based refolding yield was reduced at higher adsorbed protein concentrations. An elution gradient with increasing imidazole concentration was used to selectively elute the biologically active KSI protein following column refolding, with high molecular weight KSI aggregates retained in the column. An iterative column-refolding process was then developed to denature and refold protein retained in the column, which significantly increased the refolding yield at high-adsorbed protein concentrations. Repetition of the column refolding operation increased the refolding yield from 50% to 75% for protein adsorbed at a concentration of mg/mL of adsorbent. Although for the KSI protein column-based refolding did not improve the overall refolding yield compared to dilution refolding, it may still be advantageous due to the ease of integration with purification operations, increased control over the refolding conditions, and the ability to segregate refolded protein from inactive aggregates during elution. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.