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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 May 10;102(19):6771-6. Epub 2005 Apr 28.

Interfacial folding and membrane insertion of designed peptides studied by molecular dynamics simulations.

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Department of Molecular Biology (TPC6) and Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The mechanism of interfacial folding and membrane insertion of designed peptides is explored by using an implicit membrane generalized Born model and replica-exchange molecular dynamics. Folding/insertion simulations initiated from fully extended peptide conformations in the aqueous phase, at least 28 A away from the membrane interface, demonstrate a general mechanism for structure formation and insertion (when it occurs). The predominately hydrophobic peptides from the synthetic WALP and TMX series first become localized at the membrane-solvent interface where they form significant helical secondary structure via a helix-turn-helix motif that inserts the central hydrophobic residues into the membrane interior, and then fluctuations occur that provide a persistent helical structure throughout the peptide and it inserts with its N-terminal end moving across the membrane. More specifically, we observed that: (i) the WALP peptides (WALP16, WALP19, and WALP23) spontaneously insert in the membrane as just noted; (ii) TMX-1 also inserts spontaneously after a similar mechanism and forms a transmembrane helix with a population of approximately 50% at 300 K; and (iii) TMX-3 does not insert, but exists in a fluctuating membrane interface-bound form. These findings are in excellent agreement with available experimental data and demonstrate the potential for new implicit solvent/membrane models together with advanced simulation protocols to guide experimental programs in exploring the nature and mechanism of membrane-associated folding and insertion of biologically important peptides.

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