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Eur Phys J E Soft Matter. 2013 May;36(5):46. doi: 10.1140/epje/i2013-13046-7. Epub 2013 May 14.

Helix-coil transition in terms of Potts-like spins.

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Department of Theoretical Physics, J. Stefan Institute, Jamova 39, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia.


In the spin model of a helix-coil transition in polypeptides a preferred value of spin has to be assigned to the helical conformation, in order to account for different symmetries of the helical vs. the coil states, leading thus to the Generalized Model of Polypeptide Chain (GMPC) Hamiltonian as opposed to the Potts model Hamiltonian, both with many-body interactions. Comparison of explicit transfer matrix secular equations of the Potts model and the GMPC model reveals that the largest eigenvalue of the Potts model with Δ many-body interactions coincides with the largest eigenvalue of the GMPC model with Δ - 1 many-body interactions, indicating the identity of both free energies. In distinction, the second largest eigenvalues in both models do not coincide, indicating a different behavior for the spatial correlation length that in its turn defines the width of the helix-coil transition interval. We explore in detail the thermodynamic consequences, resulting from spin models with and without the built-in spin anisotropy, that should indicate which model to favour as a more appropriate description of the equilibrium physical properties pertaining to the helix-coil transition.

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