Peter Foster, In progress Fall 2011
It is well known that proteins in solution can reliably fold from a random coil to a unique native conformation on a biologically relavent timescale. Levinthal's paradox is an apparent contradiction between the number of possible conformations for a protein chain and the fact that proteins can fold to their native conformation quickly (less than a second). In the proceedings where Levinthal first mentioned the paradox that bears his name, he estimates that for a protein there are 10300 possible conformations. Using the amount of time it actually takes for a protein to fold to its native conformation and assuming the minimal amount of time to sample different conformations, the protein would only be able to sample ~108 different conformations if the protein sampled the conformation space randomly.