Fast-folding protein kinetics, hidden intermediates, and the sequential stabilization model

S. Banu Ozkan, Ken A. Dill, Ivet Bahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Do two-state proteins fold by pathways or funnels? Native-state hydrogen exchange experiments show discrete nonnative structures in equilibrium with the native state. These could be called hidden intermediates (HI) because their populations are small at equilibrium, and they are not detected in kinetic experiments. HIs have been invoked as disproof of funnel models, because funnel pictures appear to indicate (1) no specific sequences of events in folding; (2) a continuum, rather than a discrete ladder, of structures; and (3) smooth landscapes. In the present study, we solve the exact dynamics of a simple model. We find, instead, that the present microscopic model is indeed consistent with HIs and transition states, but such states occur in parallel, rather than along the single pathway predicted by the sequential stabilization model. At the microscopic level, we observe a huge multiplicity of trajectories. But at the macroscopic level, we observe two pathways of specific sequences of events that are relatively traditional except that they are in parallel, so there is not a single reaction coordinate. Using singular value decomposition, we show an accurate representation of the shapes of the model energy landscapes. They are highly complex funnels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1958-1970
Number of pages13
JournalProtein Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy landscape
  • Folding kinetics
  • Master equation formalism
  • Transition pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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