Theory for the folding and stability of globular proteins

Biochemistry. 1985 Mar 12;24(6):1501-9. doi: 10.1021/bi00327a032.


Using lattice statistical mechanics, we develop theory to account for the folding of a heteropolymer molecule such as a protein to the globular and soluble state. Folding is assumed to be driven by the association of solvophobic monomers to avoid solvent and opposed by the chain configurational entropy. Theory predicts a phase transition as a function of temperature or solvent character. Molecules that are too short or too long or that have too few solvophobic residues are predicted not to fold. Globular molecules should have a largely solvophobic core, but there is an entropic tendency for some residues to be "out of place", particularly in small molecules. For long chains, molecules comprised of globular domains are predicted to be thermodynamically more stable than spherical molecules. The number of accessible conformations in the globular state is calculated to be an exceedingly small fraction of the number available to the random coil. Previous estimates of this number, which have motivated kinetic theories of folding, err by many tens of orders of magnitude.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Mathematics
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Polymers
  • Protein Conformation*


  • Polymers