A structural model of polyglutamine determined from a host-guest method combining experiments and landscape theory

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Modeling the structure of natively disordered peptides has proved difficult due to the lack of structural information on these peptides. In this work, we use a novel application of the host-guest method, combining folding theory with experiments, to model the structure of natively disordered polyglutamine peptides. Initially, a minimalist molecular model (C(alpha)C(beta)) of CI2 is developed with a structurally based potential and captures many of the folding properties of CI2 determined from experiments. Next, polyglutamine "guest" inserts of increasing length are introduced into the CI2 "host" model and the polyglutamine is modeled to match the resultant change in CI2 thermodynamic stability between simulations and experiments. The polyglutamine model that best mimics the experimental changes in CI2 thermodynamic stability has 1), a beta-strand dihedral preference and 2), an attractive energy between polyglutamine atoms 0.75-times the attractive energy between the CI2 host Go-contacts. When free-energy differences in the CI2 host-guest system are correctly modeled at varying lengths of polyglutamine guest inserts, the kinetic folding rates and structural perturbation of these CI2 insert mutants are also correctly captured in simulations without any additional parameter adjustment. In agreement with experiments, the residues showing structural perturbation are located in the immediate vicinity of the loop insert. The simulated polyglutamine loop insert predominantly adopts extended random coil conformations, a structural model consistent with low resolution experimental methods. The agreement between simulation and experimental CI2 folding rates, CI2 structural perturbation, and polyglutamine insert structure show that this host-guest method can select a physically realistic model for inserted polyglutamine. If other amyloid peptides can be inserted into stable protein hosts and the stabilities of these host-guest mutants determined, this novel host-guest method may prove useful to determine structural preferences of these intractable but biologically relevant protein fragments.

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Biophysical Journal





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open access