Dimerization of the p53 oligomerization domain involves coupled folding and binding of monomers. To examine the dimerization, we have performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of dimer folding from the rate-limiting transition state ensemble (TSE). Among 799 putative transition state structures that were selected from a large ensemble of high-temperature unfolding trajectories, 129 were identified as members of the TSE via calculation of a 50% transmission coefficient from at least 20 room-temperature simulations. This study is the first to examine the refolding of a protein dimer using MD simulations in explicit water, revealing a folding nucleus for dimerization. Our atomistic simulations are consistent with experiment and offer insight that was previously unobtainable. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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