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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2009 Mar 1;483(1):16-22. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 Dec 27.

Predicting protein folding cores by empirical potential functions.

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Graduate Program of Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics, USA.


Theoretical and in vitro experiments suggest that protein folding cores form early in the process of folding, and that proteins may have evolved to optimize both folding speed and native-state stability. In our previous work (Chen et al., Structure, 14 (2006) 1401), we developed a set of empirical potential functions and used them to analyze interaction energies among secondary-structure elements in two beta-sandwich proteins. Our work on this group of proteins demonstrated that the predicted folding core also harbors residues that form native-like interactions early in the folding reaction. In the current work, we have tested our empirical potential functions on structurally-different proteins for which the folding cores have been revealed by protein hydrogen-deuterium exchange experiments. Using a set of 29 unrelated proteins, which have been extensively studied in the literature, we demonstrate that the average prediction result from our method is significantly better than predictions based on other computational methods. Our study is an important step towards the ultimate goal of understanding the correlation between folding cores and native structures.

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