Chemical kinetic modeling has previously been used to predict that fast-translating codons can enhance cotranslational protein folding by helping to avoid misfolded intermediates. Consistent with this prediction, protein aggregation in yeast and worms was observed to increase when translation was globally slowed down, possibly due to increased cotranslational misfolding. Observation of similar behavior in molecular simulations would confirm predictions from the simpler chemical kinetic model and provide a molecular perspective on cotranslational folding, misfolding, and the impact of translation speed on these processes. All-atom simulations cannot reach the timescales relevant to protein synthesis, and most conventional structure-based coarse-grained models do not allow for nonnative structure formation. Here, we introduce a protocol to incorporate misfolding using the functional forms of publicly available force fields. With this model we create two artificial proteins that are capable of undergoing structural transitions between a native and a misfolded conformation and simulate their synthesis by the ribosome. Consistent with the chemical kinetic predictions, we find that rapid synthesis of misfolding-prone nascent-chain segments increases the fraction of folded proteins by kinetically partitioning more molecules through on-pathway intermediates, decreasing the likelihood of sampling misfolded conformations. Novel to this study, to our knowledge, we observe that differences in protein dynamics, arising from different translation-elongation schedules, can persist long after the nascent protein has been released from the ribosome, and that a sufficient level of energetic frustration is needed for fast-translating codons to be beneficial for folding. These results provide further evidence that fast-translating codons can be as biologically important as pause sites in coordinating cotranslational folding.
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