Crowding, Sticking, and Partial Folding of GTT WW Domain in a Small Cytoplasm Model

M. M. Rickard, Y. Zhang, T. V. Pogorelov, M. Gruebele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent experimental data has shown that protein folding in the cytoplasm can differ from in vitro folding with respect to speed, stability, and residual structure. Here we investigate the all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of 9 copies of the model protein GTT WW domain in a small bacterial cytoplasm model using three force fields. GTT has been well-studied by MD in aqueous solution for comparison. We find that folded copies remain folded for up 25 μs, whereas unfolded copies do not fold for up to 190 μs. Unfolded GTT in our cytoplasm model does populate partly folded intermediates with one of the two hairpins formed. Relative to aqueous solution, GTT gets stuck in metastable states with a small RMSD and radius of gyration and extensive burial of surface area against other macromolecules. In particular, GTT is even able to form transient intermolecular β-sheets with other proteins, resulting in a "chimeric structure"that could be a precursor to oligomeric β-aggregates. We conclude that sticking, enhanced by the non-native mutations of GTT, is largely responsible, and we propose, on the basis of our result as well as recent experiments, that coevolution of protein surfaces with their solvation environment (including chaperones) is important for folding and diffusion of proteins in the cytoplasm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4732-4740
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 11 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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