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Protein Eng. 1999 Sep;12(9):713-20.

Folding funnels and binding mechanisms.

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  • 1Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology and Intramural Research Support Program-SAIC, Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology, NCI-FCRDC, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


The long-held views on lock-and-key versus induced fit in binding arose from the notion that a protein exists in a single, most stable conformation, dictated by its sequence. However, in solution proteins exist in a range of conformations, which may be described by statistical mechanical laws and their populations follow statistical distributions. Upon binding, the equilibrium will shift in favor of the bound conformation from the ensemble of conformations around the bottom of the folding funnel. Hence here we extend the implications and the usefulness of the folding funnel concept to explain fundamental binding mechanisms.

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