Outlining folding nuclei in globular proteins

J Mol Biol. 2004 Feb 13;336(2):509-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2003.12.018.


Our theoretical approach for prediction of folding/unfolding nuclei in three-dimensional protein structures is based on a search for free energy saddle points on networks of protein unfolding pathways. Under some approximations, this search is performed rapidly by dynamic programming and results in prediction of Phi values, which can be compared with those found experimentally. In this study, we optimize some details of the model (specifically, hydrogen atoms are taken into account in addition to heavy atoms), and compare the theoretically obtained and experimental Phi values (which characterize involvement of residues in folding nuclei) for all 17 proteins, where Phi values are now known for many residues. We show that the model provides good Phi value predictions for proteins whose structures have been determined by X-ray analysis (the average correlation coefficient is 0.65), with a more limited success for proteins whose structures have been determined by NMR techniques only (the average correlation coefficient is 0.34), and that the transition state free energies computed from the same model are in a good anticorrelation with logarithms of experimentally measured folding rates at mid-transition (the correlation coefficient is -0.73).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Folding*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Proteins
  • Hydrogen