Deciphering the code that determines the three-dimensional structure of proteins and the ability to predict the final folded form of a protein is still elusive to molecular biophysists. In the case of several proteins a similar tertiary structure is not accompanied by any significant sequence similarity. The question now remains whether a code beyond the genetic code that describes the arrangement of the amino acid within a three dimensional protein structure. The available data undoubtedly demonstrates that the redundancy of this code must be tremendous. Several techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and laser detection techniques, coupled with fast initiation of the folding reaction, can now probe the folding events in milliseconds or even faster and provide highly relevant information. The thermodynamic analysis of the folding process and of kinetic intermediates opens whole new avenue of understanding. Breaking the protein folding code would enable scientists to look at a gene whose function is unknown and predict the three-dimensional structure of the protein it encodes. This would give them a very good idea of what the gene does. In this review we hope to bring together the information available about protein folding with particular emphasis on folding intermediate(s). Additionally, the practical consequences of the solution of the protein folding problem in medicine and biotechnology are also discussed.
Keywords: Protein folding, folding intermediate, folding kinetics, misfolding, molten globule
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