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Biochemistry. 1998 Jan 27;37(4):1067-75.

Correlation between native-state hydrogen exchange and cooperative residue fluctuations from a simple model.

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Molecular Structure Section, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-5677, USA.


Recently, we developed a simple analytical model based on local residue packing densities and the distribution of tertiary contacts for describing the conformational fluctuations of proteins in their folded state. This so-called Gaussian network model (GNM) is applied here to the interpretation of experimental hydrogen exchange (HX) behavior of proteins in their native state or under weakly denaturing conditions. Calculations are performed for five proteins: bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor, cytochrome c, plastocyanin, staphylococcal nuclease, and ribonuclease H. The results are significant in two respects. First, a good agreement is reached between calculated fluctuations and experimental measurements of HX despite the simplicity of the model and within computational times 2 or 3 orders of magnitude faster than earlier, more complex simulations. Second, the success of a theory, based on the coupled conformational fluctuations of residues near the native state, to satisfactorily describe the native-state HX behavior indicates the significant contribution of local, but cooperative, fluctuations to protein conformational dynamics. The correlation between the HX data and the unfolding kinetics of individual residues further suggests that local conformational susceptibilities as revealed by the GNM approach may have implications relevant to the global dynamics of proteins.

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