Snake cube puzzle and protein folding

Biophys Physicobiol. 2019 Nov 29;16:256-263. doi: 10.2142/biophysico.16.0_256. eCollection 2019.


The snake cube puzzle made of a linear array of 27 cubes and its modified and extended versions are used as theoretical models to study the mechanism of folding of proteins into their sequence-specific native three-dimensional structures. Each of the three versions is characterized by the respective set of characteristics attributed to each of its constituent cubes and an array is characterized by its specific sequence of the cube characteristics. The aim of the puzzles is to fold the cube array into a compact 3×3×3 cubic structure. In all three versions, out of all possible sequences, only a limited fraction of sequences are found foldable into the compact cube. Even among foldable sequences, the structures folded into the compact 3×3×3 cube are found often not uniquely determined from the sequence. By comparing the results obtained for the three versions of models, we conclude that the power of the hydrophobic interactions to make the folded structure unique to the sequence is much weaker than the geometrical varieties of constituent cubes as modelled in the original snake cube puzzle. However, when this weak cube attribute is compounded to that of the original snake cube puzzle, the power is enhanced very effectively. This is a strong manifestation of the consistency principle: The sequence-specific native structure of protein is realized as a result of consistency of various types of interactions working in protein.

Keywords: geometrical varieties of amino acid residues; hydrophobic interactions; lattice model of protein; sequence determination of the native structure; the consistency principle.