Probing the flexibility of large conformational changes in protein structures through local perturbations

Bosco Ho, David Agard

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Protein conformational changes and dynamic behavior are fundamental for such processes as catalysis, regulation, and substrate recognition. Although protein dynamics have been successfully explored in computer simulation, there is an intermediate-scale of motions that has proven difficult to simulate - the motion of individual segments or domains that move independently of the body the protein. Here, we introduce a molecular-dynamics perturbation method, the Rotamerically Induced Perturbation (RIP), which can generate large, coherent motions of structural elements in picoseconds by applying large torsional perturbations to individual sidechains. Despite the large-scale motions, secondary structure elements remain intact without the need for applying backbone positional restraints. Owing to its computational efficiency, RIP can be applied to every residue in a protein, producing a global map of deformability. This map is remarkably sparse, with the dominant sites of deformation generally found on the protein surface. The global map can be used to identify loops and helices that are less tightly bound to the protein and thus are likely sites of dynamic modulation that may have important functional consequences. Additionally, they identify individual residues that have the potential to drive large-scale coherent conformational change. Applying RIP to two well-studied proteins, Dihdydrofolate Reductase and Triosephosphate Isomerase, which possess functionally-relevant mobile loops that fluctuate on the microsecond/millisecond timescale, the RIP deformation map identifies and recapitulates the flexibility of these elements. In contrast, the RIP deformation map of alpha-lytic protease, a kinetically...
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1000343-1 - e100343-13
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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