What’s happening in the area of protein folding?

Protein folding funnel.
Image courtesy: Dill KA and Chan HS, Nat St. Mol. Biol. 1997, 4 (1).

In 2008, a report in Science was published indicating that we now know how proteins fold and the problem of protein folding is somewhat solved (1). However recent research show that understanding the protein folding is still unresolved. In the current issue (30th October 2012) of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of USA (PNAS), a special feature titled “Chemical Physics Of Protein Folding” shows current cutting-edge research in this area. In the introduction the editors say:

Although the basic ideas about the folding energy landscape have turned out to be quite simple, entering even into some undergraduate textbooks, exploring their consequences in real systems has required painstaking intellectual analysis, as well as detailed computer simulations and experiments that still stretch the bounds of what is feasible.

The special feature not only covers the computational side but also the experimental approach that complement most of the studies. The diversity in the area and the unresolved questions make the problem of protein folding an interesting topic for further research. The main reason is the computations throw up possibilities of doing highly challenging single molecule experiments and the time scales challenging current computational power.

In summary the following sums up the current research.

The topics discussed in this issue are only a small part of the work in the folding field. Nevertheless, they make clear that protein folding is a vibrant, living, interdisciplinary part of the natural sciences.

Access the articles here:


1. Service, R. (2008). Problem Solved* (*sort of) Science, 321 (5890), 784-786 DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5890.784

2. Wolynes, P., Eaton, W., & Fersht, A. (2012). From the Cover: Chemical physics of protein folding Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109 (44), 17770-17771 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1215733109


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