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Simulation of the mechanical strength of a single collagen molecule

In 't Veld, Pieter J.; Stevens, Mark J.

We perform atomistic simulations on a single collagen molecule to determine its intrinsic molecular strength. A tensile pull simulation to determine the tensile strength and Young's modulus is performed, and a simulation that separates two of the three helices of collagen examines the internal strength of the molecule. The magnitude of the calculated tensile forces is consistent with the strong forces of bond stretching and angle bending that are involved in the tensile deformation. The triple helix unwinds with increasing tensile force. Pulling apart the triple helix has a smaller, oscillatory force. The oscillations are due to the sequential separation of the hydrogen-bonded helices. The force rises due to reorienting the residues in the direction of the separation force. The force drop occurs once the hydrogen bond between residues on different helices break and the residues separate. © 2008 by the Biophysical Society.