Nanoscale insight into silk-like protein self-assembly: effect of design and number of repeat units

J. Razzokov, M. Naderi, P.P.A.M. van der Schoot

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4 Citations (Scopus)


By means of replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations we investigate how the length of a silk-like, alternating diblock oligopeptide influences its secondary and quaternary structure. We carry out simulations for two protein sizes consisting of three and five blocks, and study the stability of a single protein, a dimer, a trimer and a tetramer. Initial configurations of our simulations are β-roll and β-sheet structures. We find that for the triblock the secondary and quaternary structures upto and including the tetramer are unstable: the proteins melt into random coil structures and the aggregates disassemble either completely or partially. We attribute this to the competition between conformational entropy of the proteins and the formation of hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic interactions between proteins. This is confirmed by our simulations on the pentablock proteins, where we find that, as the number of monomers in the aggregate increases, individual monomers form more hydrogen bonds whereas their solvent accessible surface area decreases. For the pentablock β-sheet protein, the monomer and the dimer melt as well, although for the β-roll protein only the monomer melts. For both trimers and tetramers remain stable. Apparently, for these the entropy loss of forming β-rolls and β-sheets is compensated for in the free-energy gain due to the hydrogen-bonding and hydrophobic interactions. We also find that the middle monomers in the trimers and tetramers are conformationally much more stable than the ones on the top and the bottom. Interestingly, the latter are more stable on the tetramer than on the trimer, suggesting that as the number of monomers increases protein-protein interactions cooperatively stabilize the assembly. According to our simulations, the β-roll and β-sheet aggregates must be approximately equally stable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number066010
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Silk/chemistry
  • Solvents/chemistry
  • self-assembly
  • fiber
  • silk like protein
  • implicit solvent
  • replica exchange molecular dynamics
  • silk-like protein


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