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J Chem Phys. 2018 Mar 28;148(12):123326. doi: 10.1063/1.5009286.

Internal friction in an intrinsically disordered protein-Comparing Rouse-like models with experiments.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.
Department of Biochemistry, University of Zurich, Zurich 8057, Switzerland.
Department of Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 7610001, Israel.


Internal friction is frequently found in protein dynamics. Its molecular origin however is difficult to conceptualize. Even unfolded and intrinsically disordered polypeptide chains exhibit signs of internal friction despite their enormous solvent accessibility. Here, we compare four polymer theories of internal friction with experimental results on the intrinsically disordered protein ACTR (activator of thyroid hormone receptor). Using nanosecond fluorescence correlation spectroscopy combined with single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET), we determine the time scales of the diffusive chain dynamics of ACTR at different solvent viscosities and varying degrees of compaction. Despite pronounced differences between the theories, we find that all models can capture the experimental viscosity-dependence of the chain relaxation time. In contrast, the observed slowdown upon chain collapse of ACTR is not captured by any of the theories and a mechanistic link between chain dimension and internal friction is still missing, implying that the current theories are incomplete. In addition, a discrepancy between early results on homopolymer solutions and recent single-molecule experiments on unfolded and disordered proteins suggests that internal friction is likely to be a composite phenomenon caused by a variety of processes.

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