Soft Matter 15
, 5596-5613 (2019)
ISSN: 1744-683X, SCI
Local symmetry determines the phases of linear chains: a simple model for the self-assembly of peptides
Tatjana Skrbic, Trinh Xuan Hoang, Amos Maritan, Jayanth R. Banavar and Achille Giacometti
We discuss the relation between the emergence of new phases with broken symmetry within the framework of simple models of biopolymers. We start with a classic model for a chain molecule of spherical beads tethered together, with the steric constraint that non-consecutive beads cannot overlap, and with a pairwise attractive square well potential accounting for the hydrophobic effect and promoting compaction. We then discuss the consequences of the successive breaking of spurious symmetries. First, we allow the partial interpenetration of consecutive beads. In addition to the standard high temperature coil phase and the low temperature collapsed phase, this results in a new class of marginally compact ground states comprising conformations reminiscent of a-helices and b-sheets, the
building blocks of the native states of globular proteins. We then discuss the effect of a further symmetry breaking of the cylindrical symmetry on attaching a side-sphere to the backbone beads along the negative normal of the chain, to mimic the presence of side chains in real proteins. This leads to the emergence of a novel phase within the previously obtained marginally compact phase, with the
appearance of more complex secondary structure assemblies. The potential importance of this new phase in the de novo design of self-assembled peptides is highlighted.