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Role of Methyl Groups in Dynamics and Evolution of Biomolecules



Jonathan Nickels, Joseph E. Curtis, Hugh O'Neill, Alexei P. Sokolov


Early life was based on RNA and while RNA based catalytic molecules still function in biology to this day, studies have discovered a strong difference between dynamics of proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), especially at lower hydrations and low temperatures. This difference is caused primarily by dynamics of methyl groups that are abundant in proteins, but are absent or very rare in DNA and RNA. In this paper we present a hypothesis regarding the role of methyl groups as intrinsic plasticizers in proteins and their evolutional selection to facilitate protein dynamics correlated to catalytic activity. We demonstrate an apparent correlation of methyl group content in proteins and their need for molecular flexibility. Moreover, methyl groups have been observed in some enzymes appear around active sites. We recognize that methyl groups are of tremendous importance from a hydrophobicity/folding perspective, however these roles, while significant, should not preclude the recognition of methyl groups role in dynamics.
Journal of Biological Physics


Neutron scattering, protein dynamics, DNA, RNA, methyl dynamics


Nickels, J. , Curtis, J. , O'Neill, H. and Sokolov, A. (2012), Role of Methyl Groups in Dynamics and Evolution of Biomolecules, Journal of Biological Physics, [online], (Accessed June 22, 2024)


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Created May 31, 2012, Updated October 12, 2021