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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e45859. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045859. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Complex intramolecular mechanics of G-actin--an elastic network study.

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Department of Physical Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Berlin, Germany.


Systematic numerical investigations of conformational motions in single actin molecules were performed by employing a simple elastic-network (EN) model of this protein. Similar to previous investigations for myosin, we found that G-actin essentially behaves as a strain sensor, responding by well-defined domain motions to mechanical perturbations. Several sensitive residues within the nucleotide-binding pocket (NBP) could be identified, such that the perturbation of any of them can induce characteristic flattening of actin molecules and closing of the cleft between their two mobile domains. Extending the EN model by introduction of a set of breakable links which become effective only when two domains approach one another, it was observed that G-actin can possess a metastable state corresponding to a closed conformation and that a transition to this state can be induced by appropriate perturbations in the NBP region. The ligands were roughly modeled as a single particle (ADP) or a dimer (ATP), which were placed inside the NBP and connected by elastic links to the neighbors. Our approximate analysis suggests that, when ATP is present, it stabilizes the closed conformation of actin. This may play an important role in the explanation why, in the presence of ATP, the polymerization process is highly accelerated.

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