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    Single-molecule experimental techniques such as optical tweezers or atomic force microscopy are a direct probe of the mechanical unfolding/folding of individual proteins. They are also a means to investigate free energy landscapes. Protein force spectroscopy alone provides limited information; theoretical models relate measurements to thermodynamic and kinetic properties of the protein, but do not reveal atomic level information. By building a molecular model of the protein and probing its properties through numerical simulation, one can gauge the response to an external force for individual interatomic interactions and determine structures along the unfolding pathway. In combination, single-molecule force probes and molecular simulations contribute to uncover the rich behavior of proteins when subjected to mechanical force. We focus on how simplified protein models have been instrumental in showing how general properties of the free energy landscape of a protein relate to its response to mechanical perturbations. We discuss the role of simple protein models to explore the complexity of free energy landscapes and highlight important conceptual issues that more chemically accurate models with all-atom representations of proteins and solvent cannot easily address. Native-centric, coarse-grained models, despite simplifications in chemical detail compared to all-atom models, can reproduce and interpret experimental results. They also highlight instances where the theoretical framework used to interpret single-molecule data is too simple. However, these simple models are not able to reproduce experimental findings where non-native contacts are involved. Mechanical forces are ubiquitous in the cell and it is increasingly clear that the way a protein responds to mechanical perturbation is important. Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.


    Matthew Batchelor, Kostas Papachristos, Michele Stofella, Zu Thur Yew, Emanuele Paci. Protein mechanics probed using simple molecular models. Biochimica et biophysica acta. General subjects. 2020 Aug;1864(8):129613

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    PMID: 32298790

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