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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Aug;1814(8):1001-20. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2010.09.013. Epub 2010 Sep 29.

Dynamics of protein folding: probing the kinetic network of folding-unfolding transitions with experiment and theory.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA; Universität Würzbug, Würzburg, Germany.

Abstract

The problem of spontaneous folding of amino acid chains into highly organized, biologically functional three-dimensional protein structures continues to challenge the modern science. Understanding how proteins fold requires characterization of the underlying energy landscapes as well as the dynamics of the polypeptide chains in all stages of the folding process. In recent years, important advances toward these goals have been achieved owing to the rapidly growing interdisciplinary interest and significant progress in both experimental techniques and theoretical methods. Improvements in the experimental time resolution led to determination of the timescales of the important elementary events in folding, such as formation of secondary structure and tertiary contacts. Sensitive single molecule methods made possible probing the distributions of the unfolded and folded states and following the folding reaction of individual protein molecules. Discovery of proteins that fold in microseconds opened the possibility of atomic-level theoretical simulations of folding and their direct comparisons with experimental data, as well as of direct experimental observation of the barrier-less folding transition. The ultra-fast folding also brought new questions, concerning the intrinsic limits of the folding rates and experimental signatures of barrier-less "downhill" folding. These problems will require novel approaches for even more detailed experimental investigations of the folding dynamics as well as for the analysis of the folding kinetic data. For theoretical simulations of folding, a main challenge is how to extract the relevant information from overwhelmingly detailed atomistic trajectories. New theoretical methods have been devised to allow a systematic approach towards a quantitative analysis of the kinetic network of folding-unfolding transitions between various configuration states of a protein, revealing the transition states and the associated folding pathways at multiple levels, from atomistic to coarse-grained representations. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Protein Dynamics: Experimental and Computational Approaches.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PMID:
20883829
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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