Proteins are the molecules of life. They are chemically programmed by their amino acid sequence to fold into highly organized conformations that underpin all of biological structure (e.g., hair, scales) and function (e.g., enzymes, antibodies). Understanding the sequence-structure-function relationship--the "protein folding problem"--is one of the great, unsolved problems in physical chemistry, and is of inestimable scientific value in exposing the inner workings of life and the rational design of molecular machines.
"This work lays the foundations to recover the protein folding landscapes directly from experimental data, providing a route to new understanding and rational design of proteins," explained Andrew Ferguson, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The molecular folding funnel contains all of the stable molecular states and folding pathways between them, providing important information about structure and mechanisms that can reveal how a polymer or protein folds, or aid in the design of drug molecule or ligands with a particular shape.
Credit: Andrew Ferguson, University of Illinois
"While we remain far from this goal, our understanding of protein folding was revolutionized by the 'new view' that envisages molecular folding as a conformational search over a funneled free energy surface."
According to Ferguson, the single-molecule free energy surface encodes all of the thermodynamics and pathways of folding, dictating protein structure and dynamics. Each point on the landscape corresponds to an ensemble of similar protein conformations, and the height of the landscape prescribes their stability. It is a key goal of physical chemistry to determine molecular folding landscapes.
"Molecular folding landscapes can be inferred from long computer simulations in which the positions of all atoms in the molecule are known," said Jiang Wang, a graduate research assistant and first author of the paper, "Nonlinear reconstruction of single-molecule free energy surfaces from univariate time series," published in Physical Review E.
"Experimental techniques such as single molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) can measure distances between covalently-grafted fluorescent dye molecules to track the size of the molecule as a function of time, but it has so far not been possible to reconstruct folding funnels from experimental measurements of single coarse-grained observables," Ferguson explained.
"In this work, we have integrated nonlinear machine learning and statistical thermodynamics with Takens' Theorem from dynamical systems theory to demonstrate in computer simulations of a hydrophobic polymer chain that it is possible to determine molecular folding landscapes from time series of a single experimentally-accessible observable."
"The information loss associated with its reconstruction from a single observable means that the topography of the reconstructed funnel may be perturbed - the heights and depths of the free energy peaks and valleys may be altered - but it faithfully preserves the topology of the true funnel - the locality, continuity, and connectivity of molecular configurations," Wang noted.
"This means that the folding funnel determined from a measurements of, in this case, the head-to-tail distance of the chain is geometrically and topologically identical and contains precisely the same molecular states and transition pathways as that computed from knowledge of all the atomic positions," Ferguson added.
"We are very excited by this idealized proof of principle for computer simulations of a polymer chain, and are currently working to extend our analyses to simulations of biologically realistic peptides and proteins, and partner with single molecule biophysicists to apply our technique to experimental measurements of real proteins," Ferguson said.
Andrew Ferguson | EurekAlert!
What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society
Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy