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© 2011 Ramanathan et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Abstract or Description

BACKGROUND: Internal motions enable proteins to explore a range of conformations, even in the vicinity of native state. The role of conformational fluctuations in the designated function of a protein is widely debated. Emerging evidence suggests that sub-groups within the range of conformations (or sub-states) contain properties that may be functionally relevant. However, low populations in these sub-states and the transient nature of conformational transitions between these sub-states present significant challenges for their identification and characterization.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: To overcome these challenges we have developed a new computational technique, quasi-anharmonic analysis (QAA). QAA utilizes higher-order statistics of protein motions to identify sub-states in the conformational landscape. Further, the focus on anharmonicity allows identification of conformational fluctuations that enable transitions between sub-states. QAA applied to equilibrium simulations of human ubiquitin and T4 lysozyme reveals functionally relevant sub-states and protein motions involved in molecular recognition. In combination with a reaction pathway sampling method, QAA characterizes conformational sub-states associated with cis/trans peptidyl-prolyl isomerization catalyzed by the enzyme cyclophilin A. In these three proteins, QAA allows identification of conformational sub-states, with critical structural and dynamical features relevant to protein function.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, QAA provides a novel framework to intuitively understand the biophysical basis of conformational diversity and its relevance to protein function.



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Published In

PLoS One, 6, 1, 15827-15827.