Biochemical Society Symposium

Validation of protein-unfolding transition states identified in molecular dynamics simulations

Valerie Daggett


Experimental and simulation studies can complement each other nicely in the area of protein folding. Experiment reports on the average properties of a large ensemble (approx. 10(17)-10(19) molecules), typically over time. Molecular dynamics simulations, on the other hand, provide detailed information for a single molecule, a component of the ensemble. By combining these approaches we can obtain not only a more complete picture of folding, but we can also take advantage of the strengths of different methods. For example, experiment cannot provide molecular structures. Molecular dynamics simulations can provide such information, but the simulations are meaningless without a linked experiment. Thus, the interrelated nature of simulation in assessing experimental assumptions and in providing structures to augment energetic descriptions, and experiment in judging whether the simulations are reasonable, provides more confidence in the resulting information about folding. This combination yields tested and testable molecular models of states that evade characterization by conventional methods. Therefore, we have explored the combined use of these methods to map folding/unfolding pathways at atomic resolution, in collaboration with Alan Fersht. Here we focus on chymotrypsin inhibitor 2, a small single-domain, two-state folding protein.