Effect of interactions with the chaperonin cavity on protein folding and misfolding
Recent experimental and computational results have suggested that attractive interactions between a chaperonin and an enclosed substrate can have an important effect on the protein folding rate: it appears that folding may even be slower inside the cavity than under unconfined conditions, in contrast to what we would expect from excluded volume effects on the unfolded state. Here we examine systematically the dependence of the protein stability and folding rate on the strength of such attractive interactions between the chaperonin and substrate, by using molecular simulations of model protein systems in an idealised attractive cavity. Interestingly, we find a maximum in stability, and a rate which indeed slows down at high attraction strengths. We have developed a simple phenomenological model which can explain the variations in folding rate and stability due to differing effects on the free energies of the unfolded state, folded state, and transition state; changes in the diffusion coefficient along the folding coordinate are relatively small, at least for our simplified model. In order to investigate a possible role for these attractive interactions in folding, we have studied a recently developed model for misfolding in multidomain proteins. We find that, while encapsulation in repulsive cavities greatly increases the fraction of misfolded protein, sufficiently strong attractive protein–cavity interactions can strongly reduce the fraction of proteins reaching misfolded traps.
- This article is part of the themed collection: The free energy landscape: from folding to cellular function