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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 30;109(44):17851-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201809109. Epub 2012 Oct 22.

Multimolecule test-tube simulations of protein unfolding and aggregation.

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1
Biomolecular Structure and Design Program and Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.

Abstract

Molecular dynamics simulations of protein folding or unfolding, unlike most in vitro experimental methods, are performed on a single molecule. The effects of neighboring molecules on the unfolding/folding pathway are largely ignored experimentally and simply not modeled computationally. Here, we present two all-atom, explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations of 32 copies of the Engrailed homeodomain (EnHD), an ultrafast-folding and -unfolding protein for which the folding/unfolding pathway is well-characterized. These multimolecule simulations, in comparison with single-molecule simulations and experimental data, show that intermolecular interactions have little effect on the folding/unfolding pathway. EnHD unfolded by the same mechanism whether it was simulated in only water or also in the presence of other EnHD molecules. It populated the same native state, transition state, and folding intermediate in both simulation systems, and was in good agreement with experimental data available for each of the three states. Unfolding was slowed slightly by interactions with neighboring proteins, which were mostly hydrophobic in nature and ultimately caused the proteins to aggregate. Protein-water hydrogen bonds were also replaced with protein-protein hydrogen bonds, additionally contributing to aggregation. Despite the increase in protein-protein interactions, the protein aggregates formed in simulation did not do so at the total exclusion of water. These simulations support the use of single-molecule techniques to study protein unfolding and also provide insight into the types of interactions that occur as proteins aggregate at high temperature at an atomic level.

PMID:
23091038
PMCID:
PMC3497795
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1201809109
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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