High Resolution Approach to the Native State Ensemble Kinetics and Thermodynamics

S Wu and PI Zhuravlev and GA Papoian, BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 95, 5524-5532 (2008).

DOI: 10.1529/biophysj.108.136697

Many biologically interesting functions such as allosteric switching or protein-ligand binding are determined by the kinetics and mechanisms of transitions between various conformational substates of the native basin of globular proteins. To advance our understanding of these processes, we constructed a two-dimensional free energy surface (FES) of the native basin of a small globular protein, Trp-cage. The corresponding order parameters were defined using two native substructures of Trp-cage. These calculations were based on extensive explicit water all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. Using the obtained two-dimensional FES, we studied the transition kinetics between two Trp-cage conformations including that switching process shows a borderline behavior between diffusive and weakly-activated dynamics. The transition is well- characterized kinetically as a biexponential process. We also introduced a new one-dimensional reaction coordinate for the conformational transition, finding reasonable qualitative agreement with the two- dimensional kinetics results. We investigated the distribution of all the 38 native nuclear magnetic resonance structures on the obtained FES, analyzing interactions that stabilize specific low-energy conformations. Finally, we constructed a FES for the same system but with simple dielectric model of water instead of explicit water, finding that the results were surprisingly similar in a small region centered on the native conformations. The dissimilarities between the explicit and implicit model on the larger-scale point to the important role of water in mediating interactions between amino acid residues.

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