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J Phys Chem B. 2013 Oct 24;117(42):13212-8. doi: 10.1021/jp4032817. Epub 2013 May 28.

Folding coupled with assembly in split green fluorescent proteins studied by structure-based molecular simulations.

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Department of Chemistry, School of Science, The University of Tokyo , Tokyo, Japan.


Split green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a powerful tool for imaging of protein-protein interactions in living cells, but molecular mechanisms of the folding and the assembly of split GFPs are poorly understood. Here, using a simple Go model that is based on the energy landscape theory, we performed comprehensive folding simulations of six split GFPs with different split points. Of the six, the fluorescence recovery was reported in four but not in the other two. In the simulations, we found that when the complete folding and assembly were observed, the N-terminal fragment always folded earlier than the C-terminal fragment. The in silico folding rates of the split GFPs were larger for the four split GFPs that the fluorescence recovery was reported in literature. The stability of standalone N-terminal fragments were well-correlated with the folding rates of split GFPs. These suggest that the efficient folding and assembly of split GFPs are realized when the N-terminal fragment folds spontaneously with the central α-helix as a nucleation core and that the C-terminal fragment folding is coupled to the assembly to the preformed N-terminal fragment.

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