Collapse dynamics of single proteins extended by force

Ronen Berkovich, Sergi Garcia-Manyes, Michael Urbakh, Joseph Klafter, Julio M. Fernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Single-molecule force spectroscopy has opened up new approaches to the study of protein dynamics. For example, an extended protein folding after an abrupt quench in the pulling force was shown to follow variable collapse trajectories marked by well-defined stages that departed from the expected two-state folding behavior that is commonly observed in bulk. Here, we explain these observations by developing a simple approach that models the free energy of a mechanically extended protein as a combination of an entropic elasticity term and a short-range potential representing enthalpic hydrophobic interactions. The resulting free energy of the molecule shows a force-dependent energy barrier of magnitude, ΔE= ε(F- Fc)3/2, separating the enthalpic and entropie minima that vanishes at a critical force Fc. By solving the Langevin equation under conditions of a force quench, we generate folding trajectories corresponding to the diffusional collapse of an extended polypeptide. The predicted trajectories reproduce the different stages of collapse, as well as the magnitude and time course of the collapse trajectories observed experimentally in ubiquitin and 127 protein monomers. Our observations validate the force-clamp technique as a powerful approach to determining the free-energy landscape of proteins collapsing and folding from extended states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2692-2701
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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