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Eur Biophys J. 1994;23(5):307-22.

Hydrodynamics of segmentally flexible macromolecules.

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  • 1Departamento de Quimica Fisica, Universidad de Murcia, Spain.


Segmentally flexible macromolecules are composed of a few rigid subunits linked by joints which are more or less flexible. The dynamics in solution of this type of macromolecule present special aspects that are reviewed here. Three alternative approaches are described. One is the rigid-body treatment, which is shown to be valid for overall dynamic properties such as translational diffusion and intrinsic viscosity. Another approach is the Harvey-Wegener treatment, which is particularly suited for rotational diffusion. The simplest version of this treatment, which ignores hydrodynamic interaction (HI) effects, is found to be quite accurate when compared to a more rigorous version including HI. A third approach is the Brownian dynamics simulation that, albeit at some computational cost, might describe rigorously cases of arbitrary complexity. This technique has been used to test the approximations in the rigid-body and Harvey-Wegener treatments, thus allowing a better understanding of their validity. Brownian trajectories of simplified models such as the trumbbell and the broken rod have been simulated. The comparison of the decay rates of some correlation functions with the predictions of the two treatments leads to a general conclusion: the Harvey-Wegener treatment determines the initial rate, while the long-time behavior is dominated by the rigid-body relaxation time. As an example of application to a specific biological macromolecule, we present a simulation of an immunoglobulin molecule, showing how Brownian Dynamics can be used to predict rotational and internal dynamics. Another typical example is myosin. Literature data of hydrodynamic properties of whole myosin and the myosin rod are compared with predictions from the Harvey-Wegener and rigid-body treatments. The present situation of the problem on myosin flexibility is analyzed, and some indications are given for future experimental and simulation work.

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