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Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2011 Feb;21(1):32-41. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Nov 26.

Protein folding in the cell: challenges and progress.

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Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


It is hard to imagine a more extreme contrast than that between the dilute solutions used for in vitro studies of protein folding and the crowded, compartmentalized, sticky, spatially inhomogeneous interior of a cell. This review highlights recent research exploring protein folding in the cell with a focus on issues that are generally not relevant to in vitro studies of protein folding, such as macromolecular crowding, hindered diffusion, cotranslational folding, molecular chaperones, and evolutionary pressures. The technical obstacles that must be overcome to characterize protein folding in the cell are driving methodological advances, and we draw attention to several examples, such as fluorescence imaging of folding in cells and genetic screens for in-cell stability.

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