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Evolution of the potential energy landscape with static pulling force for two model proteins

  • Author(s): Wales, DJ
  • Head-Gordon, T
  • et al.

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The energy landscape is analyzed for off-lattice bead models of protein L and protein G as a function of a static pulling force. Two different pairs of attachment points (pulling directions) are compared in each case, namely, residues 1/56 and 10/32. For the terminal residue pulling direction 1/56, the distinct global minimum structures are all extended, aside from the compact geometry that correlates with zero force. The helical turns finally disappear at the highest pulling forces considered. For the 10/32 pulling direction, the changes are more complicated, with a variety of competing arrangements for beads outside the region where the force is directly applied. These alternatives produce frustrated energy landscapes, with low-lying minima separated by high barriers. The calculated folding pathways in the absence of force are in good agreement with previous work. The N-terminal hairpin folds first for protein L and the C-terminal hairpin for protein G, which exhibits an intermediate. However, for a relatively low static force, where the global minimum retains its structure, the folding mechanisms change, sometimes dramatically, depending on the protein and the attachment points. The scaling relations predicted by catastrophe theory are found to hold in the limit of short path lengths. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

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