The protein folding network indicates that the ultrafast folding mutant of villin headpiece subdomain has a deeper folding funnel


Protein folding is a dynamic process with continuous transitions among different conformations. In this work, the dynamics in the protein folding network of villin headpiece subdomain (HP35) has been investigated based on multiple reversible folding trajectories of HP35 and its ultrafast folding mutant where sub-angstrom folding was achieved. The four folding states were clearly separated on the network, validating the classification of the states. Examination of the eight conformers with different formation of the individual helices revealed high plasticity of the three helices in all the four states. A consistent feature between the wild type and mutant protein is the dominant conformer 111 (all three helices formed) in the folded state and conformers 111 and 011 (helices II and III formed) in the major intermediate state, indicating the critical role of helices II and III in the folding mechanism. When compared to the wild type, the folding landscape of the ultrafast folding mutant exhibited a deeper folding funnel towards the folded state. The very beginning of the folding (0–10 ns) was very similar for both protein variants but it soon diverged and displayed different folding pathways. Although going through the major intermediate state is the dominant pathway for both, it was also observed that some folding went through the minor intermediate state for the mutant. The intriguing difference resulting from the mutation at two residues in helix III has been carefully analyzed and discussed in details

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This paper was published in PubMed Central.

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