Lattice model simulations of the effects of the position of a peptide trigger segment on helix folding and dimerization

J Chem Phys. 2012 Sep 14;137(10):105103. doi: 10.1063/1.4752247.


The folding and dimerization of proteins is greatly facilitated by the presence of a trigger site, a segment of amino acids that has a higher propensity for forming α-helix structure as compared to the rest of the chain. In addition to the helical propensity of each chain, dimerization can also be facilitated by interhelical interactions such as saltbridges, and interfacial contacts of different strengths. In this work, we are interested in understanding the interplay of these interactions in a model peptide system. We investigate how these different interactions influence the kinetics of dimer formation and the stability of the fully formed dimer. We use lattice model computer simulations to investigate how the effectiveness of the trigger segment and its saltbridges depends on the location along the protein primary sequence. For different positions of the trigger segment, heat capacity and free energy of unfolded and folded configurations are calculated to study the thermodynamics of folding and dimerization. The kinetics of the process is investigated by calculating characteristic folding times. The thermodynamic and kinetic data from the simulations combine to show that the dimerization process of the model system is faster when the segment with high helical propensity is located near either end of the peptide, as compared to the middle of the chain. The dependence of the stability of the dimer on the trigger segment's position is also studied. The stability can play a role in the ability of the dimer to perform a biological function that involves partial unzipping. The results on folding and dimer stability provide important insights for designing proteins that involve trigger sites.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Dimerization
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Thermodynamics


  • Amino Acids
  • Peptides