Morrison, Greg and Hyeon, Changbong and Hinczewski, Michael and Thirumalai, D.
Compaction and tensile forces determine the accuracy of folding landscape parameters from single molecule pulling experiments.
Physical Review Letters, 106.
We establish a framework for assessing whether the transition state location of a biopolymer, which can be inferred from single molecule pulling experiments, corresponds to the ensemble of structures that have equal probability of reaching either the folded or unfolded states (Pfold=0.5). Using results for the forced unfolding of a RNA hairpin, an exactly soluble model, and an analytic theory, we show that Pfold is solely determined by s, an experimentally measurable molecular tensegrity parameter, which is a ratio of the tensile force and a compaction force that stabilizes the folded state. Applications to folding landscapes of DNA hairpins and a leucine zipper with two barriers provide a structural interpretation of single molecule experimental data. Our theory can be used to assess whether molecular extension is a good reaction coordinate using measured free energy profiles.
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