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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Biochemistry - Biophysics - Physics

Combining Optimal Control Theory and Molecular Dynamics for Protein Folding
Published: Friday, January 06, 2012
Author: Yaman Arkun et al.

by Yaman Arkun, Mert Gur

A new method to develop low-energy folding routes for proteins is presented. The novel aspect of the proposed approach is the synergistic use of optimal control theory with Molecular Dynamics (MD). In the first step of the method, optimal control theory is employed to compute the force field and the optimal folding trajectory for the atoms of a Coarse-Grained (CG) protein model. The solution of this CG optimization provides an harmonic approximation of the true potential energy surface around the native state. In the next step CG optimization guides the MD simulation by specifying the optimal target positions for the atoms. In turn, MD simulation provides an all-atom conformation whose positions match closely the reference target positions determined by CG optimization. This is accomplished by Targeted Molecular Dynamics (TMD) which uses a bias potential or harmonic restraint in addition to the usual MD potential. Folding is a dynamical process and as such residues make different contacts during the course of folding. Therefore CG optimization has to be reinitialized and repeated over time to accomodate these important changes. At each sampled folding time, the active contacts among the residues are recalculated based on the all-atom conformation obtained from MD. Using the new set of contacts, the CG potential is updated and the CG optimal trajectory for the atoms is recomputed. This is followed by MD. Implementation of this repetitive CG optimization - MD simulation cycle generates the folding trajectory. Simulations on a model protein Villin demonstrate the utility of the method. Since the method is founded on the general tools of optimal control theory and MD without any restrictions, it is widely applicable to other systems. It can be easily implemented with available MD software packages.
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