, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 121-129
Date: 23 Oct 2003

Effect of external stresses on protein conformation: a computer modelling study

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The increasing use of digital technologies such as mobile phones has led to major health concerns about the effects of non-ionizing pulsed radiation exposure. We believe that the health implications of exposure to radiation cannot be fully understood without establishing the molecular mechanisms of biological effects of pulsed microwaves. We aim to establish methods for studying the molecular mechanisms of protein structural and energetic changes occurring due to external stresses related to non-ionizing radiation by using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. In this paper, we present the results from our fully atomistic simulation study of chemical and thermal stress response of a prototype protein, insulin. We performed a series of molecular dynamics simulations of insulin in solution under equilibrium conditions, under chemical stress (imitated by reducing the disulfide bonds in the protein molecule), and under short-lived thermal stress (imitated by increasing simulation temperature for up to 2 ns). The resultant protein conformational behaviour was analysed for various properties with the aim of establishing analysis routines for classification of protein unfolding pathways and associated molecular mechanisms.