Reproducibility in the unfolding process of protein induced by an external electric field†
The dynamics of proteins are crucial for their function. However, commonly used techniques for studying protein structures are limited in monitoring time-resolved dynamics at high resolution. Combining electric fields with existing techniques to study gas-phase proteins, such as single particle imaging using free-electron lasers and gas-phase small angle X-ray scattering, has the potential to open up a new era in time-resolved studies of gas-phase protein dynamics. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we identify well-defined unfolding pathways of a protein, induced by experimentally achievable external electric fields. Our simulations show that strong electric fields in conjunction with short-pulsed X-ray sources such as free-electron lasers can be a new path for imaging dynamics of gas-phase proteins at high spatial and temporal resolution.