a1 Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Though the structures presented in crystallographic models of macromolecules appear to possess rock-like solidity, real proteins and nucleic acids are not particularly rigid. Most structural work to date has centred upon the native state of macromolecules, the most probable macromolecular form. But the native state of a molecule is merely its most abundant form, certainly not its only form. Thermodynamics requires that all other possible structural forms, however improbable, must also exist, albeit with representation corresponding to the factor exp( — Gi/RT) for each state of free energy Gi (see Moelwyn-Hughes, 1961), and one appreciates that each molecule within a population of molecules will in time explore the vast ensemble of possible structural states.