Self-assembly of biological macromolecules

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
R N Perham


The genetic apparatus of the cell is responsible for the accurate biosynthesis of the primary structure of macromolecules which then spontaneously fold up and, in certain circumstances, aggregate to yield the complex tertiary and quaternary structures of the biologically active molecules. Structures capable of self-assembly in this range from simple monomers through oligomers to complex multimeric structures that may contain more than one type of polypeptide chain and components other than protein. It is becoming clear that even with the simpler monomeric enzymes there is becoming clear that even with the simpler monomeric enzymes there is a kinetically determined pathway for the folding process and that a folded protein must now be regarded as the minimum free energy form of the kinetically accessible conformations. It is argued that the denatured subunits of oligomeric enzymes are likely to fold to something like their final structure before aggregating to give the native quaternary structure and the available evidence would suggest that this is so. The importance of nucleation events and stable intermediates in the self-assembly of more complex structures is clear. Many self-assembling structures contain only identical subun...Continue Reading


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