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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Feb 28;103(9):3141-6. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

Shaping up the protein folding funnel by local interaction: lesson from a structure prediction study.

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Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Kobe University, Nada, Japan.


Predicting protein tertiary structure by folding-like simulations is one of the most stringent tests of how much we understand the principle of protein folding. Currently, the most successful method for folding-based structure prediction is the fragment assembly (FA) method. Here, we address why the FA method is so successful and its lesson for the folding problem. To do so, using the FA method, we designed a structure prediction test of "chimera proteins." In the chimera proteins, local structural preference is specific to the target sequences, whereas nonlocal interactions are only sequence-independent compaction forces. We find that these chimera proteins can find the native folds of the intact sequences with high probability indicating dominant roles of the local interactions. We further explore roles of local structural preference by exact calculation of the HP lattice model of proteins. From these results, we suggest principles of protein folding: For small proteins, compact structures that are fully compatible with local structural preference are few, one of which is the native fold. These local biases shape up the funnel-like energy landscape.

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