Cytochrome unfolding pathways from computational analysis of crystal structures.
Experiments with fast folding proteins are beginning to address the relationship between collapse and folding. We investigate how different scenarios for folding can arise depending on whether the folding and collapse transitions are concurrent or whether a nonspecific collapse precedes folding. Many earlier studies have focused on the limit in which collapse is fast compared to the folding time; in this work we focus on the opposite limit where, at the folding temperature, collapse and folding occur simultaneously. Real proteins exist in both of these limits. The folding mechanism varies substantially in these two regimes. In the regime of concurrent folding and collapse, nonspecific collapse now occurs at a temperature below the folding temperature (but slightly above the glass transition temperature).