The (Un)Folding of Multidomain Proteins Through the Lens of Single-molecule Force-spectroscopy and Computer Simulation
Proteins are specialized molecules that catalyze most of the reactions that can sustain life, and they become functional by folding into a specific 3D structure. Despite their importance, the question, "how do proteins fold?" - first pondered in in the 1930's - is still listed as one of the top unanswered scientific questions as of 2005, according to the journal Science. Answering this question would provide a foundation for understanding protein function and would enable improved drug targeting, efficient biofuel production, and stronger biomaterials. Much of what we currently know about protein folding comes from studies on small, single-domain proteins, which may be quite different from the folding of large, multidomain proteins that predominate the proteomes of all organisms.
In this thesis I will discuss my work to fill this gap in understanding by studying the unfolding and refolding of large, multidomain proteins using the powerful combination of single-molecule force-spectroscopy experiments and molecular dynamic simulations.
The three model proteins studied - Luciferase, Protein S, and Streptavidin - lend insight into the inter-domain dependence for unfolding and the subdomain stabilization of binding ligands, and ultimately provide new insight into atomistic details of the intermediate states along the folding pathway.
atomic force microscopy
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