This Feature Article presents a view of the protein folding transition based on the hypothesis that Nature has built features within the sequences that enable a Shortcut to efficient folding. Nature's Shortcut is proposed to be the early establishment of a set of nonlocal weak contacts, constituting protein loops that significantly constrain regions of the collapsed disordered protein into a native-like low-resolution fluctuating topology of major sections of the backbone. Nature's establishment of this scaffold of nonlocal contacts is claimed to bypass what would otherwise be a nearly hopeless unaided search for the final three-dimensional structure in proteins longer than ∼100 amino acids. To support this main contention of the Feature Article, the loop hypothesis (LH) description of early folding events is experimentally tested with time-resolved Förster resonance energy transfer techniques for adenylate kinase, and the data are shown to be consistent with theoretical predictions from the sequential collapse model (SCM). The experimentally based LH and the theoretically founded SCM are argued to provide a unified picture of the role of nonlocal contacts as constituting Nature's Shortcut to protein folding. Importantly, the SCM is shown to reliably predict key nonlocal contacts utilizing only primary sequence information. This view on Nature's Shortcut is open to the protein community for further detailed assessment, including its practical consequences, by suitable application of advanced experimental and computational techniques.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry