The effect of sequence on the conformational stability of a model heteropolymer in explicit water

Bryan A. Patel, Pablo G. Debenedetti, Frank H. Stillinger, Peter J. Rossky

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We investigate the properties of a two-dimensional lattice heteropolymer model for a protein in which water is explicitly represented. The model protein distinguishes between hydrophobic and polar monomers through the effect of the hydrophobic monomers on the entropy and enthalpy of the hydrogen bonding of solvation shell water molecules. As experimentally observed, model heteropolymer sequences fold into stable native states characterized by a hydrophobic core to avoid unfavorable interactions with the solvent. These native states undergo cold, pressure, and thermal denaturation into distinct configurations for each type of unfolding transition. However, the heteropolymer sequence is an important element, since not all sequences will fold into stable native states at positive pressures. Simulation of a large collection of sequences indicates that these fall into two general groups, those exhibiting highly stable native structures and those that do not. Statistical analysis of important patterns in sequences shows a strong tendency for observing long blocks of hydrophobic or polar monomers in the most stable sequences. Statistical analysis also shows that alternation of hydrophobic and polar monomers appears infrequently among the most stable sequences. These observations are not absolute design rules and, in practice, these are not sufficient to rationally design very stable heteropolymers. We also study the effect of mutations on improving the stability of the model proteins, and demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a very stable heteropolymer from directed evolution of an initially unstable heteropolymer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number175102
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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