Toward minimalist models of larger proteins: A ubiquitin-like protein


  • Jon M. Sorenson,

    1. Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California
    2. Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
    Current affiliation:
    1. Applied Biosystems, 850 Lincoln Centre Drive, Foster City, CA 94404
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  • Teresa Head-Gordon

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, California
    • Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
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Our recently developed off-lattice bead model capable of simulating protein structures with mixed α/β content has been extended to model the folding of a ubiquitin-like protein and provides a means for examining the more complex kinetics involved in the folding of larger proteins. Using trajectories generated from constant-temperature Langevin dynamics simulations and sampling with the multiple multi-histogram method over five-order parameters, we are able to characterize the free energy landscape for folding and find evidence for folding through compact intermediates. Our model reproduces the observation that the C-terminus loop structure in ubiquitin is the last to fold in the folding process and most likely plays a spectator role in the folding kinetics. The possibility of a productive metastable intermediate along the folding pathway consisting of collapsed states with no secondary structure, and of intermediates or transition structures involving secondary structural elements occurring early in the sequence, is also supported by our model. The kinetics of folding remain multi-exponential below the folding temperature, with glass-like kinetics appearing at T/Tf ∼ 0.86. This new physicochemical model, designed to be predictive, helps validate the value of modeling protein folding at this level of detail for genomic-scale studies, and motivates further studies of other protein topologies and the impact of more complex energy functions, such as the addition of solvation forces. Proteins 2002;46:368–379. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.