Protein Conformational Dynamics

Proteins are the structural and organizational elements of "the living state." Their essential functions are intrinsically linked to their structure and dynamic switching among different conformational states. For example, ion channel proteins embedded in a membrane may be either in an "open" conformation, through which specific ions diffuse along a gradient, or they may be "closed." This type of conformational switch does not require biochemical energy such as ATP hydrolysis, but utilizes energy stored in transmembrane voltage gradients and occurs in response to an appropriate trigger. Proteins such as enzymes, receptors, cytoskeletal filaments, muscle myosin and hemoglobin undergo important conformational changes in response to a variety of stimuli. Dynamic patterns of conformational states among cytoskeletal subunits may represent information, exert control over routine biological functions, and provide the "grain of the engram."

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