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Protein Sci. 1997 Dec;6(12):2589-605.

Dynamics and unfolding pathways of a hyperthermophilic and a mesophilic rubredoxin.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massacusetts 02138, USA.


Molecular dynamics simulations in solution are performed for a rubredoxin from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus (RdPf) and one from the mesophilic organism Desulfovibrio vulgaris (RdDv). The two proteins are simulated at four temperatures: 300 K, 373 K, 473 K (two sets), and 500 K; the various simulations extended from 200 ps to 1,020 ps. At room temperature, the two proteins are stable, remain close to the crystal structure, and exhibit similar dynamic behavior; the RMS residue fluctuations are slightly smaller in the hyperthermophilic protein. An analysis of the average energy contributions in the two proteins is made; the results suggest that the intraprotein energy stabilizes RdPf relative to RdDv. At 373 K, the mesophilic protein unfolds rapidly (it begins to unfold at 300 ps), whereas the hyperthermophilic does not unfold over the simulation of 600 ps. This is in accord with the expected stability of the two proteins. At 473 K, where both proteins are expected to be unstable, unfolding behavior is observed within 200 ps and the mesophilic protein unfolds faster than the hyperthermophilic one. At 500 K, both proteins unfold; the hyperthermophilic protein does so faster than the mesophilic protein. The unfolding behavior for the two proteins is found to be very similar. Although the exact order of events differs from one trajectory to another, both proteins unfold first by opening of the loop region to expose the hydrophobic core. This is followed by unzipping of the beta-sheet. The results obtained in the simulation are discussed in terms of the factors involved in flexibility and thermostability.

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