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      Fuzziness and Frustration in the Energy Landscape of Protein Folding, Function, and Assembly

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          Conspectus

          Are all protein interactions fully optimized? Do suboptimal interactions compromise specificity? What is the functional impact of frustration? Why does evolution not optimize some contacts? Proteins and their complexes are best described as ensembles of states populating an energy landscape. These ensembles vary in breadth from narrow ensembles clustered around a single average X-ray structure to broader ensembles encompassing a few different functional “taxonomic” states on to near continua of rapidly interconverting conformations, which are called “fuzzy” or even “intrinsically disordered”. Here we aim to provide a comprehensive framework for confronting the structural and dynamical continuum of protein assemblies by combining the concepts of energetic frustration and interaction fuzziness. The diversity of the protein structural ensemble arises from the frustrated conflicts between the interactions that create the energy landscape. When frustration is minimal after folding, it results in a narrow ensemble, but residual frustrated interactions result in fuzzy ensembles, and this fuzziness allows a versatile repertoire of biological interactions. Here we discuss how fuzziness and frustration play off each other as proteins fold and assemble, viewing their significance from energetic, functional, and evolutionary perspectives.

          We demonstrate, in particular, that the common physical origin of both concepts is related to the ruggedness of the energy landscapes, intramolecular in the case of frustration and intermolecular in the case of fuzziness. Within this framework, we show that alternative sets of suboptimal contacts may encode specificity without achieving a single structural optimum. Thus, we demonstrate that structured complexes may not be optimized, and energetic frustration is realized via different sets of contacts leading to multiplicity of specific complexes. Furthermore, we propose that these suboptimal, frustrated, or fuzzy interactions are under evolutionary selection and expand the biological repertoire by providing a multiplicity of biological activities. In accord, we show that non-native interactions in folding or interaction landscapes can cooperate to generate diverse functional states, which are essential to facilitate adaptation to different cellular conditions. Thus, we propose that not fully optimized structures may actually be beneficial for biological activities of proteins via an alternative set of suboptimal interactions. The importance of such variability has not been recognized across different areas of biology.

          This account provides a modern view on folding, function, and assembly across the protein universe. The physical framework presented here is applicable to the structure and dynamics continuum of proteins and opens up new perspectives for drug design involving not fully structured, highly dynamic protein assemblies.

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          Intrinsically unstructured proteins: re-assessing the protein structure-function paradigm.

          A major challenge in the post-genome era will be determination of the functions of the encoded protein sequences. Since it is generally assumed that the function of a protein is closely linked to its three-dimensional structure, prediction or experimental determination of the library of protein structures is a matter of high priority. However, a large proportion of gene sequences appear to code not for folded, globular proteins, but for long stretches of amino acids that are likely to be either unfolded in solution or adopt non-globular structures of unknown conformation. Characterization of the conformational propensities and function of the non-globular protein sequences represents a major challenge. The high proportion of these sequences in the genomes of all organisms studied to date argues for important, as yet unknown functions, since there could be no other reason for their persistence throughout evolution. Clearly the assumption that a folded three-dimensional structure is necessary for function needs to be re-examined. Although the functions of many proteins are directly related to their three-dimensional structures, numerous proteins that lack intrinsic globular structure under physiological conditions have now been recognized. Such proteins are frequently involved in some of the most important regulatory functions in the cell, and the lack of intrinsic structure in many cases is relieved when the protein binds to its target molecule. The intrinsic lack of structure can confer functional advantages on a protein, including the ability to bind to several different targets. It also allows precise control over the thermodynamics of the binding process and provides a simple mechanism for inducibility by phosphorylation or through interaction with other components of the cellular machinery. Numerous examples of domains that are unstructured in solution but which become structured upon binding to the target have been noted in the areas of cell cycle control and both transcriptional and translational regulation, and unstructured domains are present in proteins that are targeted for rapid destruction. Since such proteins participate in critical cellular control mechanisms, it appears likely that their rapid turnover, aided by their unstructured nature in the unbound state, provides a level of control that allows rapid and accurate responses of the cell to changing environmental conditions. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.
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            Funnels, pathways, and the energy landscape of protein folding: a synthesis.

            The understanding, and even the description of protein folding is impeded by the complexity of the process. Much of this complexity can be described and understood by taking a statistical approach to the energetics of protein conformation, that is, to the energy landscape. The statistical energy landscape approach explains when and why unique behaviors, such as specific folding pathways, occur in some proteins and more generally explains the distinction between folding processes common to all sequences and those peculiar to individual sequences. This approach also gives new, quantitative insights into the interpretation of experiments and simulations of protein folding thermodynamics and kinetics. Specifically, the picture provides simple explanations for folding as a two-state first-order phase transition, for the origin of metastable collapsed unfolded states and for the curved Arrhenius plots observed in both laboratory experiments and discrete lattice simulations. The relation of these quantitative ideas to folding pathways, to uniexponential vs. multiexponential behavior in protein folding experiments and to the effect of mutations on folding is also discussed. The success of energy landscape ideas in protein structure prediction is also described. The use of the energy landscape approach for analyzing data is illustrated with a quantitative analysis of some recent simulations, and a qualitative analysis of experiments on the folding of three proteins. The work unifies several previously proposed ideas concerning the mechanism protein folding and delimits the regions of validity of these ideas under different thermodynamic conditions.
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              The energy landscapes and motions of proteins

              Recent experiments, advances in theory, and analogies to other complex systems such as glasses and spin glasses yield insight into protein dynamics. The basis of the understanding is the observation that the energy landscape is complex: Proteins can assume a large number of nearly isoenergetic conformations (conformational substates). The concepts that emerge from studies of the conformational substates and the motions between them permit a quantitative discussion of one simple reaction, the binding of small ligands such as carbon monoxide to myoglobin.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Acc Chem Res
                Acc Chem Res
                ar
                achre4
                Accounts of Chemical Research
                American Chemical Society
                0001-4842
                1520-4898
                08 February 2021
                02 March 2021
                : 54
                : 5
                : 1251-1259
                Affiliations
                []Istituto Pasteur - Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti, Dipartimento di Scienze Biochimiche “A. Rossi Fanelli” and Istituto di Biologia e Patologia Molecolari del CNR, Sapienza Università di Roma , 00185 Rome, Italy
                []Protein Physiology Lab, Departamento de Química Biológica, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires-CONICET-IQUIBICEN , 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina
                [§ ]Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University , Husargatan 3, SE-75123 Uppsala, Sweden
                []Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, Rice University , 6500 Main Street, Houston, Texas 77251-1892, United States
                []MTA-DE Laboratory of Protein Dynamics, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Debrecen , Nagyerdei krt 98, H-4032 Debrecen, Hungary
                [# ]Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova , Via Ugo Bassi 58/B, 35131 Padova, Italy
                Author notes
                Article
                10.1021/acs.accounts.0c00813
                8023570
                33550810
                81d33a62-c4cd-4629-863e-8464d4f6cb50
                © 2021 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society

                Permits the broadest form of re-use including for commercial purposes, provided that author attribution and integrity are maintained ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                History
                : 02 December 2020
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                General chemistry
                General chemistry

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