is there a theory of protein folding?
mp6sf at hotmail.com
Thu Dec 5 17:55:15 EST 2002
fec1375d.0212051446.528bb0f4 at posting.google.com>
I'd like to throw some thoughts to stimulate a discussion.
Protein folding has long attracted the interests of theoretical
computational physicists, as well as other types of
There has been attempts to say something about folding based on
concepts inspired from spin glass theory, ``energy landscapes'',
a plethora of statistical mechanical and other models. What did
Not much, it seems to me. The spin glass analogy has proven
much useless to understand what proteins really do. The ``new
namely that folding is driven by a ``funnel''energy
landscape, is quite obvious from a physical point of view and
doesn't add anything really useful (to make predictions, that
Indeed, the basic physics (i.e. the physics which is common to
proteins) is quite simple.
Despite this, the hype around protein folding physics continues
unabated. I would predict that at some points the funding
the public will realize that there isn't much beef here, and at
point the whole field of energy landscape-ology etc. will be
The real, important scientific issues in protein folding have to
the SPECIFIC behavior of a given protein and its interactions
other molecules. The devil really is in the details here. But
this is more
an experimental problem than anything else. One can hope that at
some points people will be able to do detailed, realistic
Whether these can provide insight that is not obtainable from
experiments remains to be seen, in my view.
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