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Statistical Mechanics of Helix Bundles Using a Dynamic Programming Approach

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journal contribution
posted on 11.04.2007 by Adam Lucas, Liang Huang, Aravind Joshi, Ken A. Dill
Despite much study, biomolecule folding cooperativity is not well understood. There are quantitative models for helix-coil transitions and for coil-to-globule transitions, but no accurate models yet treat both chain collapse and secondary structure formation together. We develop here a dynamic programming approach to statistical mechanical partition functions of foldamer chain molecules. We call it the ascending levels model. We apply it to helix-coil and helix-bundle folding and cooperativity. For 14- to 50-mer Baldwin peptides, the model gives good predictions for the heat capacity and helicity versus temperature and urea. The model also gives good fits for the denaturation of Oas's three-helix bundle B domain of protein A (F13W*) and synthetic protein α3C by temperature and guanidine. The model predicts the conformational distributions. It shows that these proteins fold with transitions that are two-state, although the transitions in the Baldwin helices are nearly higher order. The model shows that the recently developed three-helix bundle polypeptoids of Lee et al. fold anti-cooperatively, with a predicted value of ΔHvHHcal = 0.72. The model also predicts that two-helix bundles are unstable in proteins but stable in peptoids. Our dynamic programming approach provides a general way to explore cooperativity in complex foldable polymers.