Dependence of internal friction on folding mechanism

Wenwei Zheng, David De Sancho, Travis Hoppe, Robert B. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


An outstanding challenge in protein folding is understanding the origin of "internal friction" in folding dynamics, experimentally identified from the dependence of folding rates on solvent viscosity. A possible origin suggested by simulation is the crossing of local torsion barriers. However, it was unclear why internal friction varied from protein to protein or for different folding barriers of the same protein. Using all-atom simulations with variable solvent viscosity, in conjunction with transition-path sampling to obtain reaction rates and analysis via Markov state models, we are able to determine the internal friction in the folding of several peptides and miniproteins. In agreement with experiment, we find that the folding events with greatest internal friction are those that mainly involve helix formation, while hairpin formation exhibits little or no evidence of friction. Via a careful analysis of folding transition paths, we show that internal friction arises when torsion angle changes are an important part of the folding mechanism near the folding free energy barrier. These results suggest an explanation for the variation of internal friction effects from protein to protein and across the energy landscape of the same protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3283-3290
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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