The authors study how the simultaneous presence of short-range secondary and long-range tertiary interactions controls the folding and collapse behavior of a helical macromolecule. The secondary interactions stabilize the helical conformation of the chain, while the tertiary interactions govern its overall three-dimensional shape. The authors have carried out Monte Carlo simulations to study the effect of chain length on the folding and collapse behavior of the chain. They have calculated state diagrams for four chain lengths and found that the physics is very rich with a plethora of stable conformational states. In addition to the helix-coil and coil-globule transitions, their model describes the coupling between them which takes place at low temperatures. Under these conditions, their model predicts a cascade of continuous, conformational transitions between states with an increase in the strength of the tertiary interactions. During each transition the chain shrinks, i.e., collapses, in a rapid and specific manner. In addition, the number of the transitions increases with increasing chain length. They have also found that the low-temperature regions of the state diagram between the transition lines cannot be associated with specific structures of the chain, but rather, with ensembles of various configurations of the chain with similar characteristics. Based on these results the authors propose a mechanism for the folding and collapse of helical macromolecules which is further supported by the analysis of configurational, configurational, and thermodynamic properties of the chain.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gustavo_carri/2/