5-Prime | Getting Tidy: Protein Folding

What is protein folding? It is the process by which proteins acquire their functional, preordained, three-dimensional structure after they emerge, as linear polymers of amino acids, from the ribosome.

Who discovered it? In the 1940s, Linus Pauling and Robert Corey elucidated the a-helix and the b-sheet, which are considered the two fundamental building blocks of all protein secondary structures. In the early 1970s, Christian Anfinsen showed that a protein's 3-D structure is determined purely by its initial amino acid sequence. Recent research indicates that the folding rate also might be predictable from the sequence. (See Protein Folding: Theory Meets Disease)

When does it occur? Most proteins start folding within a minute, at most, after leaving the ribosome. The completion time varies by orders of magnitude, from less than 1 microsecond to several minutes. Some small proteins can acquire the native state...

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