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Protein Folding

BhumikaPatel's picture
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The subject of protein folding came up in one of my classes and although I had studied protein folding before, this time I began to wonder if protein folding is also an emergent system. Basically, protein folding is how a particular amino acid sequence folds itself into a conformation that is lowest in energy. The process it goes through can be described to be like a funnel, where the sequence tries to fold itself in different conformations while eliminating high energy conformations until it gets to the native state (the conformation lowest in energy). The idea that amino acids are simple units that when arranged in a particular sequence, always fold in a similar manner led me to believe that protein folding could be an emergent system. There is no architect or conductor in protein folding as the native state of the protein depends primarily upon how the particular amino acids in the protein associate with themselves. But, during Monday’s class Paul described emergence as having surprising outcomes given the knowledge of the rules. This doesn’t apply to protein folding since a particular amino acid sequence always has the same native state conformation. So, now I am not sure whether protein folding is an emergent system…

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LindsayGold's picture

If anyone's interested in doing some protein folding themselves, you can visit Folding@Home. You download a program that basically goes out, gets a package of proteins to fold, brings them back to your computer, and uses your extra computing power to fold. Then it sends them back. You can help cure cancer! (But make sure your computer can handle working at 100% all of the time...mine can't, unfortunately.)
BhumikaPatel's picture

Thanks Lidsay! It's amazing there is something like Folding@Home since numerous diseases can be traced back to protein misfolding. I did a little research and found some programs that have a purpose similar to Folding@Home: Predictor@Home, Rosetta@Home and Human Proteome Folding I thought a little more about protein folding being an emergent system and came to the conclusion that if emergence is defined in basic terms, forming complex things from simple things without an architect or a planner, than protein folding is an emergent system. But, I think I may have to discuss this with my biochem professor to get see how she feels about it...