Unwinding the mysteries of protein folding

Essentially, biophysicists look at the forces needed to unwind these proteins to better understand the process of folding. In particular, the researchers studied a membrane protein bacteriorhodopsin, which lives at the boundary between the inside and outside of the cell. When expressed by mRNA, these strings of amino acids are essentially one-dimensional; it’s not until they start winding up into coils, or helices, that they assume their functional three-dimensional form.