Mechanical models of proteins
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In general, this dissertation is concerned with modeling of mechanical behavior of protein molecules. In particular, we focus on coarse-grained models, which bridge the gap in time and length scale between the atomistic simulation and biological processes. The dissertation presents three independent studies involving such models. The first study is concerned with a rigorous coarse-graining method for dynamics of linear systems. In this method, as usual, the conformational space of the original atomistic system is divided into master and slave degrees of freedom. Under the assumption that the characteristic timescales of the masters are slower than those of the slaves, the method results in Langevin-type equations of motion governed by an effective potential of mean force. In addition, coarse-graining introduces hydrodynamic-like coupling among the masters as well as non-trivial inertial effects. Application of our method to the long-timescale part of the relaxation spectra of proteins shows that such dynamic coupling is essential for reproducing their relaxation rates and modes. The second study is concerned with calibration of elastic network models based on the so-called B-factors, obtained from x-ray crystallographic measurements. We show that a proper calibration procedure must account for rigid-body motion and constraints imposed by the crystalline environment on the protein. These fundamental aspects of protein dynamics in crystals are often ignored in currently used elastic network models, leading to potentially erroneous network parameters. We develop an elastic network model that properly takes rigid-body motion and crystalline constraints into account. This model reveals that B-factors are dominated by rigid-body motion rather than deformation, and therefore B-factors are poorly suited for identifying elastic properties of protein molecules. Furthermore, it turns out that B-factors for a benchmark set of three hundred and thirty protein molecules can be well approximated by assuming that the protein molecules are rigid. The third study is concerned with the polymer mediated interaction between two planar surfaces. In particular, we consider the case where a thin polymer layer bridges two parallel plates. We consider two models of monodisperse and polydisperse for the polymer layer and obtain an analytical expression for the force-distance relationship of the two plates.