Computer simulations of protein translocation and stretching
Many biomolecular processes involve mechanical force-induced reactions in the cell, such as translocation, and mechanical stretching of biopolymers. Recent advances in single molecule manipulation techniques make it possible to apply mechanical force to individual biomolecules and study their dynamics. To gain molecular level understanding of these processes and to interpret the single-molecule experiments, we used Langevin dynamics simulations of coarse-grained biopolymer models. Our result show that the mechanism of translocation of proteins through pores depends on the pore diameter, on the magnitude of the pulling force and on whether the force is applied at the N- or the C-terminus of the chain. In addition, the translocation kinetics of peptides varies with their stability. The mechanism of protein translocation is found to be different from that of a structureless polypeptide of the same length. We further showed that unfolding mechanism of translocation process is different from when the same protein is stretched between its C- and N-termini. We also studied the mechanical and chemical/thermal denaturation of proteins. We observed that the free energy profile along the mechanical reaction coordinate and the chemical reaction coordinate are different. In our protein model, the mechanical and chemical/thermal denaturation cannot be simply explained in terms of a simple onedimensional free energy landscape. We further analyzed the spontaneous folding and refolding under a constant force and found that refolding generally occurs via different mechanisms. Similarly, we investigated the protein unfolding/refolding under the applied force that varies with a constant loading rate. This study shows that unfolding/refolding pathways are generally similar for low loading/unloading rates while they become different for high loading/unloading rates. Finally, we studied the dynamics of molecular friction knots formed by a pair of polymer strands. We examined different knot types, and different polymer sequences. Depending on the knot type and the nature of the polymer, we observed two different behaviors when the force F is exerted to separate the polymer strands. The knot between polymer strands can be strong (the time [tau] the knot stays tied increases with the force F applied to separate the strands) or weak ([tau]decreases with increasing F).