Journal of Chemical Physics 145
, 084904 (2016)
ISSN: 0021-9606, SCI
Effective stiffness and formation of secondary structures in a protein-like model
Tatjana Škrbić, Trinh X. Hoang, and Achille Giacometti
We use Wang-Landau and replica exchange techniques to study the effect of an increasing stiffness on the formation of secondary structures in protein-like systems. Two possible models are considered. In both models, a polymer chain is formed by tethered beads where non-consecutive backbone beads attract each other via a square-well potential representing the tendency of the chain to fold. In addition, smaller hard spheres are attached to each non-terminal backbone bead along the direction normal to the chain to mimic the steric hindrance of side chains in real proteins. The two models, however, differ in the way bending rigidity is enforced. In the first model, partial overlap between consecutive beads is allowed. This reduces the possible bending angle between consecutive bonds thus producing an effective entropic stiffness that competes with a short-range attraction, and leads to the formation of secondary structures characteristic of proteins. We discuss the low-temperature phase diagram as a function of increasing interpenetration and find a transition from a planar, beta-like structure, to helical shape. In the second model, an energetic stiffness is explicitly introduced by imposing an infinitely large energy penalty for bending above a critical angle between consecutive bonds, and no penalty below it. The low-temperature phase of this model does not show any sign of protein-like secondary structures. At intermediate temperatures, however, where the chain is still in the coil conformation but stiffness is significant, we find the two models to predict a quite similar dependence of the persistence length as a function of the stiffness. This behaviour is rationalized in terms of a simple geometrical mapping between the two models. Finally, we discuss the effect of shrinking side chains to zero and find the above mapping to still hold true.