Turbulence in protein folding: Vorticity, scaling and diffusion of probability flows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, when studying folding of a SH3 domain, we discovered that the flows of transitions between protein states can be surprisingly similar to turbulent fluid flows. This similarity was not restricted by a vortex pattern of the flow fields but extended to a spatial correlation of flow fluctuations, resulting, in particular, in the structure functions such as in the Kolmogorov theory of homogeneous and isotropic turbulence. Here, we undertake a detailed analysis of spatial distribution of folding flows and their similarity to turbulent fluid flows. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we study folding of another benchmark system—Trp-cage miniprotein, which has different content of secondary structure elements and mechanism of folding. Calculating the probability fluxes of transitions in a three-dimensional space of collective variables, we have found that similar to the SH3 domain, the structure functions of the second and third orders correspond to the Kolmogorov functions. The spatial distributions of the probability fluxes are self-similar with a fractal dimension, and the fractal index decreases toward the native state, indicating that the flow becomes more turbulent as the native state is approached. We also show that the process of folding can be viewed as Brownian diffusion in the space of probability fluxes. The diffusion coefficient plays a role of the key parameter that defines the structures functions, similar to the rate of dissipation of kinetic energy in hydrodynamic turbulence. The obtained results, first, show that the very complex dynamics of protein folding allows a simple characterization in terms of scaling and diffusion of probability fluxes, and, secondly, they suggest that the turbulence phenomena similar to hydrodynamic turbulence are not specific of folding of a particular protein but are common to protein folding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0188659
Pages (from-to)e0188659
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Hydrodynamics
  • Kinetics
  • Probability
  • Protein Folding
  • Proteins/chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Turbulence in protein folding: Vorticity, scaling and diffusion of probability flows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this