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Multiscale Modeling of Proteins

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journal contribution
posted on 16.02.2010, 00:00 by Valentina Tozzini
The activity within a living cell is based on a complex network of interactions among biomolecules, exchanging information and energy through biochemical processes. These events occur on different scales, from the nano- to the macroscale, spanning about 10 orders of magnitude in the space domain and 15 orders of magnitude in the time domain. Consequently, many different modeling techniques, each proper for a particular time or space scale, are commonly used. In addition, a single process often spans more than a single time or space scale. Thus, the necessity arises for combining the modeling techniques in multiscale approaches.In this Account, I first review the different modeling methods for bio-systems, from quantum mechanics to the coarse-grained and continuum-like descriptions, passing through the atomistic force field simulations. Special attention is devoted to their combination in different possible multiscale approaches and to the questions and problems related to their coherent matching in the space and time domains. These aspects are often considered secondary, but in fact, they have primary relevance when the aim is the coherent and complete description of bioprocesses.Subsequently, applications are illustrated by means of two paradigmatic examples: (i) the green fluorescent protein (GFP) family and (ii) the proteins involved in the human immunodeficency virus (HIV) replication cycle. The GFPs are currently one of the most frequently used markers for monitoring protein trafficking within living cells; nanobiotechnology and cell biology strongly rely on their use in fluorescence microscopy techniques. A detailed knowledge of the actions of the virus-specific enzymes of HIV (specifically HIV protease and integrase) is necessary to study novel therapeutic strategies against this disease. Thus, the insight accumulated over years of intense study is an excellent framework for this Account.The foremost relevance of these two biomolecular systems was recently confirmed by the assignment of two of the Nobel prizes in 2008: in chemistry for the discovery of GFP and in medicine for the discovery of HIV. Accordingly, these proteins were studied with essentially all of the available modeling techniques, making them ideal examples for studying the details of multiscale approaches in protein modeling.