Lindahl V, Gourdon P, Andersson M, Hess B
Sci Rep 8 (1) 2995 [2018-02-14; online 2018-02-14]
Aquaporin TIP2;1 is a protein channel permeable to both water and ammonia. The structural origin of ammonia selectivity remains obscure, but experiments have revealed that a double mutation renders it impermeable to ammonia without affecting water permeability. Here, we aim to reproduce and explain these observations by performing an extensive mutational study using microsecond long molecular dynamics simulations, applying the two popular force fields CHARMM36 and Amber ff99SB-ILDN. We calculate permeabilities and free energies along the channel axis for ammonia and water. For one force field, the permeability of the double mutant decreases by a factor of 2.5 for water and 4 for ammonia, increasing water selectivity by a factor of 1.6. We attribute this effect to decreased entropy of water in the pore, due to the observed increase in pore-water interactions and narrower pore. Additionally, we observe spontaneous opening and closing of the pore on the cytosolic side, which suggests a gating mechanism for the pore. Our results show that sampling methods and simulation times are sufficient to delineate even subtle effects of mutations on structure and function and to capture important long-timescale events, but also underline the importance of improving models further.