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J Mol Biol. 1996 Mar 29;257(2):412-29.

Identification and characterization of the unfolding transition state of chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 by molecular dynamics simulations.

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  • 1Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195-7610, USA.


Temperature-induced unfolding of chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 (CI2) in water has been investigated using molecular dynamics simulations. One simulation (2.2 ns) has been analyzed in detail and three additional simulations (each > or = 1 ns) were performed to check the generality of the results. Concurrent loss of secondary and tertiary structure during unfolding was observed in all the simulations. For each simulation, the major transition state of unfolding was identified based on conformational analysis of protein structures along the unfolding trajectory. The transition state has a considerably weakened hydrophobic core and disrupted secondary structure. Nevertheless, the overall structure of the transition state is closer to the native state than to the unfolded state. The disruption of the hydrophobic core appears to be rate limiting. However, other energy barriers have to be overcome before reaching the major transition state. A method is described to quantitatively compare the structure of the simulated transition state with that characterized by protein engineering experiments. Good agreement with the experimental data is obtained for all four transition state models (the correlation coefficient R = 0.80 to 0.93) and the average over all four models gives the best correlation (R = 0.94). These simulations provide the first comprehensive atomic-level view of what the unfolding transition state of C12 may look like.

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