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J Mol Biol. 2003 Feb 21;326(3):933-54.

Interplay among tertiary contacts, secondary structure formation and side-chain packing in the protein folding mechanism: all-atom representation study of protein L.

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Department of Chemistry, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005-1892, USA.


Experimental and theoretical results suggest that, since proteins are energetically minimally frustrated, the native fold, or topology, plays a primary role in determining the structure of the transition state ensemble and on-pathway intermediate states in protein folding. Although the central role of native state topology in determining the folding mechanism is thought to be a quite general result-at least for small two-state folding proteins-there are remarkable exceptions. Recent experimental findings have shown that topology alone cannot always determine the folding mechanism, and demonstrated that the balance between topology and energetics is very delicate. This balance seems to be particularly critical in proteins with a highly symmetrical native structure, such as proteins L and G, which have similar native structure topology but fold by different mechanisms. Simplified, C(alpha)-atom only protein models have shown not be sufficient to differentiate these mechanisms. An all-atom Gō model provides a valuable intermediate model between structurally simplified protein representations and all-atom protein simulations with explicit/implicit solvent descriptions. We present here a detailed study of an all-atom Gō-like representation of protein L, in close comparison with the experimental results and with the results obtained from a simple C(alpha)-atom representation of the same protein. We also perform simulations for protein G, where we obtain a folding mechanism in which the protein symmetry is broken exactly in the opposite way to protein L as has been observed experimentally. A detailed analysis for protein L also shows that the role of specific residues is correctly and quantitatively reproduced by the all-atom Gō model over almost the entire protein.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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