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Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Tom McLeish

Yew, Z.T. McLeish, T.C.B. & Paci, E. (2008). New Dynamical Window onto the Landscape for Forced Protein Unfolding. Physical Review Letters 101(24): 248104

Author(s) from Durham


The unfolding of a protein by the application of an external force pulling two atoms of the protein can be detected by atomic force and optical tweezers technologies as have been broadly demonstrated in the past decade. Variation of the applied force results in a modulation of the free-energy barrier to unfolding and thus, the rate of the process, which is often assumed to have single exponential kinetics. It has been recently shown that it is experimentally feasible, through the use of force clamps, to estimate the distribution of unfolding times for a population of proteins initially in the native state. In this Letter we show how the analysis of such distributions under a range of forces can provide unique information about the underlying free-energy surface such as the height of the free-energy barrier, the preexponential factor and the force dependence of the unfolding kinetics without resorting to ad hoc kinetic models.