Molecular dynamics simulations of synthetic peptide folding

Shen Shu Sung, Xiong Wu Wu

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56 Scopus citations


Because the time scale of protein folding is much greater than that of the widely used simulations of native structures, a detailed report of molecular dynamics simulations of folding has not been available. In this study, we included the average solvent effect in the potential functions to simplify the calculation of the solvent effect and carried out long molecular dynamics simulations of the alanine-based synthetic peptides at 274 K. From either an extended or a randomly generated conformation, the simulations approached a helix-coil equilibrium in about 3 ns. The multiple minima problem did not prevent helix folding. The calculated helical ratio of Ac- AAQ-AAAAQAAAAQAAY-NH2 was 47%, in good agreement with the circular dichroism measurement (about 50%). A helical segment with frayed ends was the most stable conformation, but the hydrophobic interaction favored the compact, distorted helix-turn-helix conformations. The transition between the two types of conformations occurred in a much larger time scale than helix propagation. The transient hydrogen bonds between the glutamine side chain and the backbone carbonyl group could reduce the free energy barrier of helix folding and unfolding. The substitution of a single alanine residue in the middle of the peptide with valine or glycine decreased the average helical ratio significantly, in agreement with experimental observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-214
Number of pages13
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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