Multidomain protein solves the folding problem by multifunnel combined landscape: theoretical investigation of a Y-family DNA polymerase

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Aug 22;134(33):13755-64. doi: 10.1021/ja3045663. Epub 2012 Aug 10.


Approximately three-fourths of eukaryotic proteins are composed of multiple independently folded domains. However, much of our understanding is based on single domain proteins or isolated domains whose studies directly lead to well-known energy landscape theory in which proteins fold by navigating through a funneled energy landscape toward native structure ensembles. The degrees of freedom for proteins with multiple domains are many orders of magnitude larger than that for single domain proteins. Now, the question arises: How do the multidomain proteins solve the "protein folding problem"? Here, we specifically address this issue by exploring the structure folding relationship of Sulfolobus solfataricus DNA polymerase IV (DPO4), a prototype Y-family DNA polymerase which contains a polymerase core consisting of a palm (P domain), a finger (F domain), and a thumb domain (T domain) in addition to a little finger domain (LF domain). The theoretical results are in good agreement with the experimental data and lead to several theoretical predictions. Finally, we propose that for rapid folding into well-defined conformations which carry out the biological functions, four-domain DPO4 employs a divide-and-conquer strategy, that is, combining multiple individual folding funnels into a single funnel (domains fold independently and then coalesce). In this way, the degrees of freedom for multidomain proteins are polynomial rather than exponential, and the conformational search process can be reduced effectively from a large to a smaller time scale.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Polymerase beta / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Stability
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sulfolobus solfataricus / chemistry
  • Sulfolobus solfataricus / enzymology*


  • DNA Polymerase beta