Configurational entropy elucidates the role of salt-bridge networks in protein thermostability

John H. Missimer, Michel O. Steinmetz, Riccardo Baron, Fritz K. Winkler, Richard A. Kammerer, Xavier Daura, Wilfred F. Van Gunsteren

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Detailed knowledge of how networks of surface salt bridges contribute to protein thermal stability is essential not only to understand protein structure and function but also to design thermostable proteins for industrial applications. Experimental studies investigating thermodynamic stability through measurements of free energy associated with mutational alterations in proteins provide only macroscopic evidence regarding the structure of salt-bridge networks and assessment of their contribution to protein stability. Using explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations to provide insight on the atomic scale, we investigate here the structural stability, defined in terms of root-mean-square fluctuations, of a short polypeptide designed to fold into a stable trimeric coiled coil with a well-packed hydrophobic core and an optimal number of intra- and interhelical surface salt bridges. We find that the increase of configurational entropy of the backbone and side-chain atoms and decreased pair correlations of these with increased temperature are consistent with nearly constant atom-positional root-mean-square fluctuations, increased salt-bridge occupancies, and stronger electrostatic interactions in the coiled coil. Thus, our study of the coiled coil suggests a mechanism in which well-designed salt-bridge networks could accommodate stochastically the disorder of increased thermal motion to produce thermostability. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Copyright © 2007 The Protein Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1349-1359
    Number of pages10
    JournalProtein science
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


    • Coiled coil
    • Configurational entropy
    • Folding
    • GROMOS
    • Molecular dynamics


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