Protein folding research has been dominated by the assumption that thermodynamics determines protein structure and function. And that when the folding process is compromised in vivo the proteostasis machinery — chaperones, deaggregases, the proteasome — work to restore proteins to their soluble, functional form or degrade them to maintain the cellular pool of proteins in a quasi-equilibrium state. During the past decade, however, more and more proteins have been identified for which altering only their speed of synthesis alters their structure and function, the efficiency of the down-stream processes they take part in, and cellular phenotype. Indeed, evidence has emerged that evolutionary selection pressures have encoded translation-rate information into mRNA molecules to coordinate diverse co-translational processes. Thus, non-equilibrium physics can play a fundamental role in influencing nascent protein behavior, mRNA sequence evolution, and disease. Here, we discuss how our understanding of this phenomenon is being advanced by the application of theoretical tools from the physical sciences.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology