Albany 2015:Book of Abstracts

Albany 2015
Conversation 19
June 9-13 2015
©Adenine Press (2012)

The Energy Landscape for Protein Folding and Biomolecular Machines

It is amazing how cells have created a number of molecular machines specialized for undertaking tasks needed to control and maintain cellular functions with exquisite precision. Due to fact that biomolecules fluctuate via thermal motion and their dynamics is diffusive, biological machines are fundamentally different from those experienced by conventional heat engines or machines in the macroscopic world. One of the key features of biological machines is the conformational changes triggered by the thermal noise under weak environmental perturbation. Therefore we can explain how they behave using ideas borrowed from the energy landscape theory of protein folding and polymer dynamics. This "new view" allows us to envisage the dynamics of molecular motors from the structural perspective and it provides the means to make several quantitative predictions that can be tested by experiments. For the kinesin motor, a prototype of the biological machines in the cell, molecular simulations of an explicit kinesin and microtubule structures show that fluctuations and flexibility inherent to the structure leads to versatile adaptation of the molecular structure, allosteric communication controlled by internal mechanics, and large amplitude stepping motion harnessing the thermal fluctuation.

* Supported by the NSF

José Nelson Onuchic

Center for Theoretical Biological Physics and Departments of Physics and Astronomy
Chemistry, and Biosciences
Rice University
Houston, Texas 77005

Ph: (713) 348-4197 jonuchic@rice.edu