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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
5-Oct-2010

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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics
@AIP_Publishing

Model unfolds proteins gently

Washington, D.C. (October 5, 2010) -- Protein molecules inside cells are constantly reorganizing themselves, driven by very tiny forces exerted by all the other molecules in their crowded environment. Most experimental techniques and theoretical/computational models are necessarily built around much greater driving forces. A new theoretical model reported in the Journal of Chemical Physics investigates the unfolding of fibronectin under gentler conditions.

"Typical models study very fast processes and consume a lot of CPU time," says author Alessandro Pelizzola of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy. "The strengths of our model are simplicity and the ability to model the slow, low-force processes that actually occur inside the cell."

Under the smaller forces, the researchers discovered a previously uncharacterized sequential loss of structure involving a fluctuation between two intermediates of similar complexity. The unfolding was demonstrated to involve many more steps than previously shown in experiments and more complex models. Because the model probes forces that are an order of magnitude smaller than those currently available to experimentalists, it can lead to a better understanding of biomolecular transitions within the cell.

"These small forces are beyond the current experimental techniques" says Pelizzola, "but I would expect the experiments to be possible in a few years." The model has been applied to other biomolecular processes with similarly detailed results.

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The article, "Pathways of mechanical unfolding of FnIII10: low force intermediates" by M. Caraglio, A. Imparato, A. Pelizzola appears in The Journal of Chemical Physics. http://link.aip.org/link/jcpsa6/v133/i6/p065101/s1

ABOUT THE JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS

The Journal of Chemical Physics publishes concise and definitive reports of significant research in methods and applications of chemical physics. Innovative research in traditional areas of chemical physics such as spectroscopy, kinetics, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics continue to be areas of interest to readers of JCP. In addition, newer areas such as polymers, materials, surfaces/interfaces, information theory, and systems of biological relevance are of increasing importance. Routine applications of chemical physics techniques may not be appropriate for JCP. Content is published online daily, collected into four monthly online and printed issues (48 issues per year); the journal is published by the American Institute of Physics. See: http://jcp.aip.org/

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world's largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.



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