Source:Proteins, 71:45-60, 2008
We combine two methods to enable the prediction of the order in which contacts are broken under external stretching forces in single molecule experiments. These two methods are Gō-like models and elastic network models. The Gō-like models have shown remarkable success in representing many aspects of protein behavior, including the reproduction of experimental data obtained from atomic force microscopy. The simple elastic network models are often used successfully to predict the fluctuations of residues around their mean positions, comparing favorably with the experimentally measured crystallographic B-factors. The behavior of biomolecules under external forces has been demonstrated to depend principally on their elastic properties and the overall shape of their structure. We have studied in detail the muscle protein titin and green fluorescent protein and tested for ten other proteins. First, we stretch the proteins computationally by performing stochastic dynamics simulations with the Gō-like model. We obtain the force-displacement curves and unfolding scenarios of possible mechanical unfolding. We then use the elastic network model to calculate temperature factors (B-factors) and compare the slowest modes of motion for the stretched proteins and compare them with the predicted order of breaking contacts between residues in the Gō-like model. Our results show that a simple Gaussian network model is able to predict contacts that break in the next time stage of stretching. Additionally, we have found that the contact disruption is strictly correlated with the highest force exerted by the backbone on these residues. Our prediction of bond-breaking agrees well with the unfolding scenario obtained with the Gō-like model. We anticipate that this method will be a useful new tool for interpreting stretching experiments.