From valleys to ridges: Exploring the dynamic energy landscape of single membrane proteins

Harald Janovjak, K. Tanuj Sapra, Alexej Kedrov, Daniel J. Müller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Membrane proteins are involved in essential biological processes such as energy conversion, signal transduction, solute transport and secretion. All biological processes, also those involving membrane proteins, are steered by molecular interactions. Molecular interactions guide the folding and stability of membrane proteins, determine their assembly, switch their functional states or mediate signal transduction. The sequential steps of molecular interactions driving these processes can be described by dynamic energy landscapes. The conceptual energy landscape allows to follow the complex reaction pathways of membrane proteins while its modifications describe why and how pathways are changed. Single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) detects. quantifies and locates interactions within and between membrane proteins. SMFS helps to determine how these interactions change with temperature, point mutations, oligomerization and the functional states of membrane proteins. Applied in different modes, SMFS explores the co-existence and population of reaction pathways in the energy landscape of the protein and thus reveals detailed insights into local mechanisms, determining its structural and functional relationships. Here we review how SMFS extracts the defining parameters of an energy landscape such as the barrier position, reaction kinetics and roughness with high precision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-966
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular interactions
  • Protein folding
  • Single-molecule studies

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