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Mechanical Transition from α-Helical Coiled Coils to β-Sheets in Fibrin(ogen)

Zhmurov, Artem, Kononova, Olga, Litvinov, Rustem I., Dima, Ruxandra I., Barsegov, Valeri, Weisel, John W.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2012 v.134 no.50 pp. 20396-20402
energy, fibrin, humans, mechanical properties, models, phase transition
We characterized the α-to-β transition in α-helical coiled-coil connectors of the human fibrin(ogen) molecule using biomolecular simulations of their forced elongation and theoretical modeling. The force (F)–extension (X) profiles show three distinct regimes: (1) the elastic regime, in which the coiled coils act as entropic springs (F < 100–125 pN; X < 7–8 nm); (2) the constant-force plastic regime, characterized by a force-plateau (F ≈ 150 pN; X ≈ 10–35 nm); and (3) the nonlinear regime (F > 175–200 pN; X > 40–50 nm). In the plastic regime, the three-stranded α-helices undergo a noncooperative phase transition to form parallel three-stranded β-sheets. The critical extension of the α-helices is 0.25 nm, and the energy difference between the α-helices and β-sheets is 4.9 kcal/mol per helical pitch. The soft α-to-β phase transition in coiled coils might be a universal mechanism underlying mechanical properties of filamentous α-helical proteins.