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J Mol Biol. 2007 Aug 10;371(2):283-301. Epub 2007 Jun 2.

Energetics of protein folding.

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Department of Biochemistry, Beckman Center, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


The energetics of protein folding determine the 3D structure of a folded protein. Knowledge of the energetics is needed to predict the 3D structure from the amino acid sequence or to modify the structure by protein engineering. Recent developments are discussed: major factors are reviewed and auxiliary factors are discussed briefly. Major factors include the hydrophobic factor (burial of non-polar surface area) and van der Waals interactions together with peptide hydrogen bonds and peptide solvation. The long-standing model for the hydrophobic factor (free energy change proportional to buried non-polar surface area) is contrasted with the packing-desolvation model and the approximate nature of the proportionality between free energy and apolar surface area is discussed. Recent energetic studies of forming peptide hydrogen bonds (gas phase) are reviewed together with studies of peptide solvation in solution. Closer agreement is achieved between the 1995 values for protein unfolding enthalpies in vacuum given by Lazaridis-Archontis-Karplus and Makhatadze-Privalov when the solvation enthalpy of the peptide group is taken from electrostatic calculations. Auxiliary factors in folding energetics include salt bridges and side-chain hydrogen bonds, disulfide bridges, and propensities to form alpha-helices and beta-structure. Backbone conformational entropy is a major energetic factor which is discussed only briefly for lack of knowledge.

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