Campus Units

Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Roy J. Carver Department of, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics

Document Type


Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

The Journal of Chemical Physics



First Page





Predicting conformational changes of proteins is needed in order to fully comprehend functional mechanisms. With the large number of available structures in sets of related proteins, it is now possible to directly visualize the clusters of conformations and their conformational transitions through the use of principal component analysis. The most striking observation about the distributions of the structures along the principal components is their highly non-uniform distributions. In this work, we use principal component analysis of experimental structures of 50 diverse proteins to extract the most important directions of their motions, sample structures along these directions, and estimate their free energy landscapes by combining knowledge-based potentials and entropy computed from elastic network models. When these resulting motions are visualized upon their coarse-grained free energy landscapes, the basis for conformational pathways becomes readily apparent. Using three well-studied proteins, T4 lysozyme, serum albumin, and sarco-endoplasmic reticular Ca2+ adenosine triphosphatase (SERCA), as examples, we show that such free energy landscapes of conformational changes provide meaningful insights into the functional dynamics and suggest transition pathways between different conformational states. As a further example, we also show that Monte Carlo simulations on the coarse-grained landscape of HIV-1 protease can directly yield pathways for force-driven conformational changes.


This article is published as Sankar, Kannan, Jie Liu, Yuan Wang, and Robert L. Jernigan. "Distributions of experimental protein structures on coarse-grained free energy landscapes." The Journal of chemical physics 143 (2016):243153. doi: 10.1063/1.4937940. Posted with permission.

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AIP Publishing LLC.



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