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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Jun 1;1749(2):148-72. Epub 2005 Apr 8.

Nonlinear optical studies of heme protein dynamics: implications for proteins as hybrid states of matter.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Protein structure is fundamentally related to function. However, static structures alone are insufficient to understand how a protein works. Dynamics play an equally important role. Given that proteins are highly associated aperiodic systems, it may be expected that protein dynamics would follow glass-like dynamics. However, protein functions occur on time scales orders of magnitude faster than the time scales typically associated with glassy systems. It is becoming clear that the reaction forces driving functions do not sample entirely the large number of configurations available to a protein but are highly directed along an optimized pathway. Could there be any correlation between specific topological features in protein structures and dynamics that leads to strongly correlated atomic displacements in the dynamical response to a perturbation? This review will try to provide an answer by focusing upon recent nonlinear optical studies with the aim of directly observing functionally important protein motions over the entire dynamic range of the protein response function. The specific system chosen is photoinduced dynamics of ligand dissociation at the active site in heme proteins, with myoglobin serving as the simplest model system. The energetics and nuclear motions from the very earliest events involved in bond breaking on the femtosecond time scale all the way out to ligand escape and bimolecular rebinding on the microsecond and millisecond time scale have been mapped out. The picture that is emerging is that the system consists of strongly coupled motions from the very instant the bond breaks at the active site that cascade into low frequency collective modes specific to the protein structure. It is this coupling that imparts the ability of a protein to function on time scales more commensurate with liquids while simultaneously conserving structural integrity akin to solids.

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