Kinks, loops, and protein folding, with protein A as an example.

Krokhotin A, Liwo A, Maisuradze GG, Niemi AJ, Scheraga HA

J Chem Phys 140 (2) 025101 [2014-01-14; online 2014-01-21]

The dynamics and energetics of formation of loops in the 46-residue N-terminal fragment of the B-domain of staphylococcal protein A has been studied. Numerical simulations have been performed using coarse-grained molecular dynamics with the united-residue (UNRES) force field. The results have been analyzed in terms of a kink (heteroclinic standing wave solution) of a generalized discrete nonlinear Schrödinger (DNLS) equation. In the case of proteins, the DNLS equation arises from a C(α)-trace-based energy function. Three individual kink profiles were identified in the experimental three-α-helix structure of protein A, in the range of the Glu16-Asn29, Leu20-Asn29, and Gln33-Asn44 residues, respectively; these correspond to two loops in the native structure. UNRES simulations were started from the full right-handed α-helix to obtain a clear picture of kink formation, which would otherwise be blurred by helix formation. All three kinks emerged during coarse-grained simulations. It was found that the formation of each is accompanied by a local free energy increase; this is expressed as the change of UNRES energy which has the physical sense of the potential of mean force of a polypeptide chain. The increase is about 7 kcal/mol. This value can thus be considered as the free energy barrier to kink formation in full α-helical segments of polypeptide chains. During the simulations, the kinks emerge, disappear, propagate, and annihilate each other many times. It was found that the formation of a kink is initiated by an abrupt change in the orientation of a pair of consecutive side chains in the loop region. This resembles the formation of a Bloch wall along a spin chain, where the C(α) backbone corresponds to the chain, and the amino acid side chains are interpreted as the spin variables. This observation suggests that nearest-neighbor side chain-side chain interactions are responsible for initiation of loop formation. It was also found that the individual kinks are reflected as clear peaks in the principal modes of the analyzed trajectory of protein A, the shapes of which resemble the directional derivatives of the kinks along the chain. These observations suggest that the kinks of the DNLS equation determine the functionally important motions of proteins.

Affiliated researcher

PubMed 24437917

DOI 10.1063/1.4855735

Crossref 10.1063/1.4855735

pmc: PMC3899063