Is there a unifying mechanism for protein folding?

Trends Biochem Sci. 2003 Jan;28(1):18-25. doi: 10.1016/s0968-0004(02)00012-9.


Proteins appear to fold by diverse pathways, but variations of a simple mechanism - nucleation-condensation - describe the overall features of folding of most domains. In general, secondary structure is inherently unstable and its stability is enhanced by tertiary interactions. Consequently, an extensive interplay of secondary and tertiary interactions determines the transition-state for folding, which is structurally similar to the native state, being formed in a general collapse (condensation) around a diffuse nucleus. As the propensity for stable secondary structure increases, folding becomes more hierarchical and eventually follows a framework mechanism where the transition state is assembled from pre-formed secondary structural elements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary