Multiscale simulation reveals a multifaceted mechanism of proton permeation through the influenza A M2 proton channel
RB Liang and H Li and JMJ Swanson and GA Voth, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 111, 9396-9401 (2014).
The influenza A virus M2 channel (AM2) is crucial in the viral life cycle. Despite many previous experimental and computational studies, the mechanism of the activating process in which proton permeation acidifies the virion to release the viral RNA and core proteins is not well understood. Herein the AM2 proton permeation process has been systematically characterized using multiscale computer simulations, including quantum, classical, and reactive molecular dynamics methods. We report, to our knowledge, the first complete free-energy profiles for proton transport through the entire AM2 transmembrane domain at various pH values, including explicit treatment of excess proton charge delocalization and shuttling through the His37 tetrad. The free-energy profiles reveal that the excess proton must overcome a large free-energy barrier to diffuse to the His37 tetrad, where it is stabilized in a deep minimum reflecting the delocalization of the excess charge among the histidines and the cost of shuttling the proton past them. At lower pH values the His37 tetrad has a larger total charge that increases the channel width, hydration, and solvent dynamics, in agreement with recent 2D-IR spectroscopic studies. The proton transport barrier becomes smaller, despite the increased charge repulsion, due to backbone expansion and the more dynamic pore water molecules. The calculated conductances are in quantitative agreement with recent experimental measurements. In addition, the free-energy profiles and conductances for proton transport in several mutants provide insights for explaining our findings and those of previous experimental mutagenesis studies.
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