Source:Proteins, 26:271–287, 1996
There is considerable experimental evidence that the cooperativity of protein folding resides in the transition from the molten globule to the native state. The objective of this study is to examine whether simplified models can reproduce this cooperativity and if so, to identify its origin. In particular, the thermodynamics of the conformational transition of a previously designed sequence (A. Kolinski, W. Galazka, and J. Skolnick, J. Chem. Phys. 103: 10286-10297, 1995), which adopts a very stable Greek-key beta-barrel fold has been investigated using the entropy Monte Carlo sampling (ESMC) technique of Hao and Scheraga (M.-H. Hao and H.A. Scheraga, J. Phys. Chem. 98: 9882-9883, 1994). Here, in addition to the original potential, which includes one body and pair interactions between side chains, the force field has been supplemented by two types of multi-body potentials describing side chain interactions. These potentials facilitate the protein-like pattern of side chain packing and consequently increase the cooperativity of the folding process. Those models that include an explicit cooperative side chain packing term exhibit a well-defined all-or-none transition from a denatured, random coil state to a high-density, well-defined, nativelike low-energy state. By contrast, models lacking such a term exhibit a conformational transition that is essentially continuous. Finally, an examination of the conformations at the free-energy barrier between the native and denatured states reveals that they contain a substantial amount of native-state secondary structure, about 50% of the native contacts, and have an average root mean square radius of gyration that is about 15% larger than native.