Elastin undergoes an "inverse temperature transition" such that it becomes more ordered as the temperature increases. To investigate the molecular basis for this behavior, molecular dynamics simulations were conducted above and below the transition temperature. Simulations of a 90-residue elastin peptide, (VPGVG)(18), with explicit water molecules were performed at seven different temperatures between 7 and 42 degrees C, for a total of 80 ns. Beginning from an idealized beta-spiral structure, hydrophobic collapse was observed over a narrow temperature range in the simulations. Moreover, simulations above and below elastin's transition temperature indicate that elastin has more turns and distorted beta-structure at higher temperatures. Water was critical to the inverse temperature transition and elastin-associated water molecules can be divided into three categories: those closely associated with beta II turns; those that form hydrogen bonds with the main-chain groups; and those hydrating the hydrophobic side-chains. Water-swollen, monomeric elastin above the transition temperature is best described as a compact amorphous structure with distorted beta-strands, fluctuating turns, buried hydrophobic residues, and main-chain polar atoms that participate in hydrogen bonds with water. Below the transition temperature, elastin is expanded with approximately 40 % local beta-spiral structure. Overall the simulations are in agreement with experiment and therefore appear to provide an atomic-level description of the conformational properties of elastin monomers and the basis for their elastomeric properties.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.