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A Small Tripeptide AFA Undergoes Two State Cooperative Conformational Transitions: Implications for Conformational Biases in Unfolded States

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It is important to understand the conformational biases that are present in unfolded states to understand protein folding. In this context, it is surprising that even a short tripeptide like AFA samples folded/ordered conformation as demonstrated recently by NMR experiments of the peptide in aqueous solution at 280 K. In this paper, we present molecular dynamics simulation of the peptide in explicit water using OPLS-AA/L all-atom force field. The results are in overall agreement with NMR results and provide some further insights. The peptide samples turn and extended conformational forms corresponding to minima in free energy landscape. Frequent transitions between the minima are observed due to modest free energy barriers. The turn conformation seems to be stabilized by hydrophobic interactions and possibly by bridging water molecules between backbone donors and acceptors. Thus the peptide does not sample conformations randomly, but samples well defined conformations. The peptide served as a model for folding-unfolding equilibrium in the context of peptide folding. Further, implications for drug design are also discussed.

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Keywords: GROMACS; Tripeptide; molecular dynamics; protein folding; two state transitions; unfolded state

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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  • Protein & Peptide Letters publishes short papers in all important aspects of protein and peptide research, including structural studies, recombinant expression, function, synthesis, enzymology, immunology, molecular modeling, drug design etc. Manuscripts must have a significant element of novelty, timeliness and urgency that merit rapid publication. Reports of crystallisation, and preliminary structure determinations of biologically important proteins are acceptable. Purely theoretical papers are also acceptable provided they provide new insight into the principles of protein/peptide structure and function.
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