Molecular dynamics simulations of binding, unfolding, and global conformational changes of signaling and adhesion molecules

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Chen, Wei
Zhu, Cheng
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Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to investigate the structural basis for the functions of three proteins: Fc(gamma) receptor III (CD16), von Willebrand factor (VWF), and integrin. CD16, a heavily glycosylated protein expressed on human immune cells, plays a crucial role in immune defense by linking antibody-antigen complexes with cellular effector functions. Glycosylation of CD16 decreases its affinity for IgG. MD simulations were run for CD16-IgG Fc complexes with or without an N-glycan on CD16. The two simulated complexes show different conformations. Molecular Mechanics-Poisson Boltzmann Surface Area (MM-PBSA) approach was used to calculate the binding free energy of the CD16-IgG Fc complexes. The calculated binding free energy helped to identify critical residues. VWF, a multimeric multidomain glycoprotein, initiates platelet adhesion at the sites of vascular injury. A specific VWF metalloprotease, A Disintegrin And Metalloprotease with ThromboSpondin motifs member 13 (ADAMTS-13), cleaves the Tyr1605-Met1606 bond in the VWF A2 domain to generate the full spectrum of plasma VWF species. Shear stress or denaturants assist VWF cleavage by ADAMTS-13 due to the unfolding of A2. MD was used to simulate the unfolding processes of A2 under force or high temperature. The beta-strands of A2 were pulled out sequentially by force, during which the cleavage site changed in steps from the fully buried state to the fully exposed state. Thermal unfolding follows a very different pathway. Integrins are adhesion molecules mediating cell-cell, cell-extracellular matrix, and cell-pathogen interactions. Experiments suggest that integrins can undergo a large-scale change from a bent to an extended conformation, associating with a transition from low to high affinity states, i.e., integrin activation. Steered MD was utilized to simulate the bent-to-extended conformational transition in time of aVb3 integrin. The integrin was observed to change smoothly from the bent to the extended conformation. One major energy barrier was overcome, corresponding to the disruption of the interactions at Hybrid/EGF4/bTD interfaces. A partially extended conformation tends to bend back while a fully extended conformation is stabilized by the coordination of Asp457 with Ca2+ at alpha-genu. Unbending with separated legs overcomes more energy barriers.
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