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Symmetry, form, and shape: guiding principles for robustness in macromolecular machines.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Computational studies of large macromolecular assemblages have come a long way during the past 10 years. With the explosion of computer power and parallel computing, timescales of molecular dynamics simulations have been extended far beyond the hundreds of picoseconds timescale. However, limitations remain for studies of large-scale conformational changes occurring on timescales beyond nanoseconds, especially for large macromolecules. In this review, we describe recent methods based on normal mode analysis that have enabled us to study dynamics on the microsecond timescale for large macromolecules using different levels of coarse graining, from atomically detailed models to those employing only low-resolution structural information. Emerging from such studies is a control principle for robustness in Nature's machines. We discuss this idea in the context of large-scale functional reorganization of the ribosome, virus particles, and the muscle protein myosin.

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