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“School of Physics”

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Paper   IPM / P / 12162
School of Physics
  Title:   Confinement in Nanopores Can Destabilize Alpha-Helix Folding Proteins and Stabilize the Beta Structures
  Author(s): 
1.  L. Javidpour
2.  M. Sahimi
  Status:   Published
  Journal: J. Chem. Phys.
  Vol.:  135
  Year:  2011
  Pages:   125101
  Supported by:  IPM
  Abstract:
Protein folding in confined media has attracted wide attention over the past decade due to its importance in both in vivo and in vitroapplications. Currently, it is generally believed that protein stability increases by decreasing the size of the confining medium, if its interaction with the confining walls is repulsive, and that the maximum folding temperature in confinement occurs for a pore size only slightly larger than the smallest dimension of the folded state of a protein. Protein stability in pore sizes, very close to the size of the folded state, has not however received the attention that it deserves. Using detailed, 0.3-ms-long molecular dynamics simulations, we show that proteins with an α−helix native state can have an optimal folding temperature in pore sizes that do not affect the folded-state structure. In contradiction to the current theoretical explanations, we find that the maximum folding temperature occurs in larger pores for smaller α−helices. In highly confined pores the free energy surface becomes rough, and a new barrier for protein folding may appear close to the unfolded state. In addition, in small nanopores the protein states that contain the β structures are entropically stabilized, in contrast to the bulk. As a consequence, folding rates decrease notably and the free energy surface becomes rougher. The results shed light on many recent experimental observations that cannot be explained by the current theories, and demonstrate the importance of entropic effects on proteins' misfolded states in highly confined environments. They also support the concept of passive effect of chaperonin GroEL on protein folding by preventing it from aggregation in crowded environment of biological cells, and provide deeper clues to the α \dashrightarrow β conformational transition, believed to contribute to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The strategy of protein and enzyme stabilization in confined media may also have to be revisited in the case of tight confinement. For in silico studies of protein folding in confined media, use of non-Go potentials may be more appropriate.

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