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S. Muff; A. Caflisch

Journal: Proteins
Year: 2008
Volume: 70
Issue: 4
Pages: 1185-1195
DOI: 10.1002/prot.21565
Type of Publication: Journal Article

Computer Simulation; Kinetics; Motion; Point Mutation; Protein Denaturation; Protein Folding; Protein Structure, Secondary


The effects of a single-point mutation on folding thermodynamics and kinetics are usually interpreted by focusing on the native structure and the transition state. Here, the entire conformational spaces of a 20-residue three-stranded antiparallel β-sheet peptide (double hairpin) and of its single-point mutant W10V are sampled close to the melting temperature by equilibrium folding-unfolding molecular dynamics simulations for a total of 40 μs. The folded state as well as the most populated free energy basins in the denatured state are isolated by grouping conformations according to fast relaxation at equilibrium. Such kinetic analysis provides more detailed and useful information than a simple projection of the free energy. The W10V mutant has the same native structure as the wild type peptide, and similar folding rate and stability. In the denatured state, the N-terminal hairpin is about 20% more structured in W10V than the wild type mainly because of van der Waals interactions. Notably, the W10V mutation influences also the van der Waals energy at the transition state ensemble causing a shift in the ratio of fluxes between two different transition state regions on parallel folding pathways corresponding to nucleation at either of the two β-hairpins. Previous experimental studies have focused on the effects of denaturant-dependent or temperature-dependent changes in the structure of the denatured state. The atomistic simulations show that a single-point mutation in the central strand of a β-sheet peptide results in remarkable changes in the topography of the denatured state ensemble. These changes modulate the relative accessibility of parallel folding pathways because of kinetic partitioning of the denatured state. Therefore, the observed dependence of the folding process on the starting ensemble raises questions on the biological significance of in vitro folding studies under strongly denaturing conditions.