Landscapes with megabasins: Polyamorphism in liquids and biopolymers and the role of nucleation in folding and folding diseases

Charles Angell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


We show how energy landscape concepts can rationalize the observations on glassforming liquids over the whole range of behavior, strong to fragile. In particular, we show how the existence of landscapes with both strong and fragile megabasins can provide a basis for understanding the nature of quasi-first-order transitions between amorphous states such as those observed to occur in the glassy states of "strong" glassformers. We show how this propensity originates in the liquid state and then emphasize the analogy provided, at the mesoscopic level, by the folding transition in proteins. Recognition that the folding transition is an equilibrium first-order transition between polyamorphic forms of a complex system implies recognition of the need for a nucleation step in the process. When nucleated phase transitions are kinetically retarded, their probability can be influenced by time-temperature history and by the presence of nucleating agents. Nucleation events are statistically rare in mesoscopic systems, hence the ability to fold rapidly should require special features in the folding molecular structure or the presence of nucleating agents. We propose that the unwanted folding events leading to pathogenic forms of certain proteins (prions) can be stimulated by nucleating agents, which thus may be the unidentified infectious agents in "mad cow" disease and related maladies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-142
Number of pages21
JournalPhysica D: Nonlinear Phenomena
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 1997


  • Adam-Gibbs equation
  • Folding transition in proteins
  • Glassforming liquids
  • Kauzmann paradox
  • Nucleation
  • Prions
  • Relaxation functions
  • Vogel-Fulcher equation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Applied Mathematics


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