Conformational changes below the Tm: molecular dynamics studies of the thermal pretransition of ribonuclease A.
ABSTRACT: Recent work suggests that some native conformations of proteins can vary with temperature. To obtain an atomic-level description of this structural and conformational variation, we have performed all-atom, explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations of bovine pancreatic ribonuclease A (RNase A) up to its melting temperature (Tm approximately 337 K). RNase A has a thermal pretransition near 320 K [Stelea, S. D., Pancoska, P., Benight, A. S., and Keiderling, T. A. (2001) Protein Sci. 10, 970-978]. Our simulations identify a conformational change that coincides with this pretransition. Between 310 and 320 K, there is a small but significant decrease in the number of native contacts, beta-sheet hydrogen bonding, and deviation of backbone conformation from the starting structure, and an increase in the number of nonnative contacts. Native contacts are lost in beta-sheet regions and in alpha1, partially due to movement of alpha1 away from the beta-sheet core. At 330 and 340 K, a nonnative helical segment of residues 15-20 forms, corresponding to a helix observed in the N-terminal domain-swapped dimer [Liu, Y. S., Hart, P. J., Schulnegger, M. P., and Eisenberg, D. (1998) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 95, 3437-3432]. The conformations observed at the higher temperatures possess nativelike topology and overall conformation, with many native contacts, but they have a disrupted active site. We propose that these conformations may represent the native state at elevated temperature, or the N' state. These simulations show that subtle, functionally important changes in protein conformation can occur below the Tm.
Project description:Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that is transmissible to humans and that is currently incurable. BSE is caused by the prion protein (PrP), which adopts two conformers; PrPC is the native innocuous form, which is ?-helix rich; and PrPSc is the ?-sheet rich misfolded form, which is infectious and forms neurotoxic species. Acidic pH induces the conversion of PrPC to PrPSc. We have performed molecular dynamics simulations of bovine PrP at various pH regimes. An acidic pH environment induced conformational changes that were not observed in neutral pH simulations. Putative misfolded structures, with nonnative ?-strands formed in the flexible N-terminal domain, were found in acidic pH simulations. Two distinct pathways were observed for the formation of nonnative ?-strands: at low pH, hydrophobic contacts with M129 nucleated the nonnative ?-strand; at mid-pH, polar contacts involving Q168 and D178 facilitated the formation of a hairpin at the flexible N-terminus. These mid- and low pH simulations capture the process of nonnative ?-strand formation, thereby improving our understanding of how PrPC misfolds into the ?-sheet rich PrPSc and how pH factors into the process.
Project description:RNA folding occurs via a series of transitions between metastable intermediate states for Mg(2+) concentrations below those needed to fold the native structure. In general, these folding intermediates are considerably less compact than their respective native states. Our previous work demonstrates that the major equilibrium intermediate of the 154-residue specificity domain (S-domain) of the Bacillus subtilis RNase P RNA is more extended than its native structure. We now investigate two models with falsifiable predictions regarding the origins of the extended intermediate structures in the S-domains of the B. subtilis and the Escherichia coli RNase P RNA that belong to different classes of P RNA and have distinct native structures. The first model explores the contribution of electrostatic repulsion, while the second model probes specific interactions in the core of the folding intermediate. Using small-angle X-ray scattering and Langevin dynamics simulations, we show that electrostatics plays only a minor role, whereas specific interactions largely account for the extended nature of the intermediate. Structural contacts in the core, including a nonnative base pair, help to stabilize the intermediate conformation. We conclude that RNA folding intermediates adopt extended conformations due to short-range, nonnative interactions rather than generic electrostatic repulsion of helical domains. These principles apply to other ribozymes and riboswitches that undergo functionally relevant conformational changes.
Project description:Both folded and unfolded conformations should be observed for a protein at its melting temperature (T(m)), where DeltaG between these states is zero. In an all-atom molecular dynamics simulation of chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 (CI2) at its experimental T(m), the protein rapidly loses its low-temperature native structure; it then unfolds before refolding to a stable, native-like conformation. The initial unfolding follows the unfolding pathway described previously for higher-temperature simulations: the hydrophobic core is disrupted, the beta-sheet pulls apart and the alpha-helix unravels. The unfolded state reached under these conditions maintains a kernel of structure in the form of a non-native hydrophobic cluster. Refolding simply reverses this path, the side-chain interactions shift, the helix refolds, and the native packing and hydrogen bonds are recovered. The end result of this refolding is not the initial crystal structure; it contains the proper topology and the majority of the native contacts, but the structure is expanded and the contacts are long. We believe this to be the native state at elevated temperature, and the change in volume and contact lengths is consistent with experimental studies of other native proteins at elevated temperature and the chemical denaturant equivalent of T(m).
Project description:After reanalyzing simulations of NuG2-a designed mutant of protein G-generated by Lindorff-Larsen et al. with time structure-based independent components analysis and Markov state models as well as performing 1.5 ms of additional sampling on Folding@home, we found an intermediate with a register-shift in one of the ?-sheets that was visited along a minor folding pathway. The minor folding pathway was initiated by the register-shifted sheet, which is composed of solely nonnative contacts, suggesting that for some peptides, nonnative contacts can lead to productive folding events. To confirm this experimentally, we suggest a mutational strategy for stabilizing the register shift, as well as an infrared experiment that could observe the nonnative folding nucleus.
Project description:Many RNA molecules exert their biological function only after folding to unique three-dimensional structures. For long, noncoding RNA molecules, the complexity of finding the native topology can be a major impediment to correct folding to the biologically active structure. An RNA molecule may fold to a near-native structure but not be able to continue to the correct structure due to a topological barrier such as crossed strands or incorrectly stacked helices. Achieving the native conformation thus requires unfolding and refolding, resulting in a long-lived intermediate. We investigate the role of topology in the folding of two phylogenetically related catalytic group I introns, the Twort and Azoarcus group I ribozymes. The kinetic models describing the Mg(2+)-mediated folding of these ribozymes were previously determined by time-resolved hydroxyl (?OH) radical footprinting. Two intermediates formed by parallel intermediates were resolved for each RNA. These data and analytical ultracentrifugation compaction analyses are used herein to constrain coarse-grained models of these folding intermediates as we investigate the role of nonnative topology in dictating the lifetime of the intermediates. Starting from an ensemble of unfolded conformations, we folded the RNA molecules by progressively adding native constraints to subdomains of the RNA defined by the ?OH time-progress curves to simulate folding through the different kinetic pathways. We find that nonnative topologies (arrangement of helices) occur frequently in the folding simulations despite using only native constraints to drive the reaction, and that the initial conformation, rather than the folding pathway, is the major determinant of whether the RNA adopts nonnative topology during folding. From these analyses we conclude that biases in the initial conformation likely determine the relative flux through parallel RNA folding pathways.
Project description:All-atom free-energy methods offer a promising alternative to kinetic molecular mechanics simulations of protein folding and association. Here we report an accurate, transferable all-atom biophysical force field (PFF02) that stabilizes the native conformation of a wide range of proteins as the global optimum of the free-energy landscape. For 32 proteins of the ROSETTA decoy set and six proteins that we have previously folded with PFF01, we find near-native conformations with an average backbone RMSD of 2.14 A to the native conformation and an average Z-score of -3.46 to the corresponding decoy set. We used nonequilibrium sampling techniques starting from completely extended conformations to exhaustively sample the energy surface of three nonhomologous hairpin-peptides, a three-stranded beta-sheet, the all-helical 40 amino-acid HIV accessory protein, and a zinc-finger beta beta alpha motif, and find near-native conformations for the minimal energy for each protein. Using a massively parallel evolutionary algorithm, we also obtain a near-native low-energy conformation for the 54 amino-acid engrailed homeodomain. Our force field thus stabilized near-native conformations for a total of 20 proteins of all structure classes with an average RMSD of only 3.06 A to their respective experimental conformations.
Project description:We studied the microsecond folding dynamics of three beta hairpins (Trp zippers 1-3, TZ1-TZ3) by using temperature-jump fluorescence and atomistic molecular dynamics in implicit solvent. In addition, we studied TZ2 by using time-resolved IR spectroscopy. By using distributed computing, we obtained an aggregate simulation time of 22 ms. The simulations included 150, 212, and 48 folding events at room temperature for TZ1, TZ2, and TZ3, respectively. The all-atom optimized potentials for liquid simulations (OPLS(aa)) potential set predicted TZ1 and TZ2 properties well; the estimated folding rates agreed with the experimentally determined folding rates and native conformations were the global potential-energy minimum. The simulations also predicted reasonable unfolding activation enthalpies. This work, directly comparing large simulated folding ensembles with multiple spectroscopic probes, revealed both the surprising predictive ability of current models as well as their shortcomings. Specifically, for TZ1-TZ3, OPLS for united atom models had a nonnative free-energy minimum, and the folding rate for OPLS(aa) TZ3 was sensitive to the initial conformation. Finally, we characterized the transition state; all TZs fold by means of similar, native-like transition-state conformations.
Project description:Using a newly developed microsecond pressure-jump apparatus, we monitor the refolding kinetics of the helix-stabilized five-helix bundle protein λ*YA, the Y22W/Q33Y/G46,48A mutant of λ-repressor fragment 6-85, from 3 μs to 5 ms after a 1,200-bar P-drop. In addition to a microsecond phase, we observe a slower 1.4-ms phase during refolding to the native state. Unlike temperature denaturation, pressure denaturation produces a highly reversible helix-coil-rich state. This difference highlights the importance of the denatured initial condition in folding experiments and leads us to assign a compact nonnative helical trap as the reason for slower P-jump-induced refolding. To complement the experiments, we performed over 50 μs of all-atom molecular dynamics P-drop refolding simulations with four different force fields. Two of the force fields yield compact nonnative states with misplaced α-helix content within a few microseconds of the P-drop. Our overall conclusion from experiment and simulation is that the pressure-denatured state of λ*YA contains mainly residual helix and little β-sheet; following a fast P-drop, at least some λ*YA forms misplaced helical structure within microseconds. We hypothesize that nonnative helix at helix-turn interfaces traps the protein in compact nonnative conformations. These traps delay the folding of at least some of the population for 1.4 ms en route to the native state. Based on molecular dynamics, we predict specific mutations at the helix-turn interfaces that should speed up refolding from the pressure-denatured state, if this hypothesis is correct.
Project description:We provide a time- and structure-resolved characterization of the folding of the heterogeneous ?-hairpin peptide Tryptophan Zipper 2 (Trpzip2) using 2D IR spectroscopy. The amide I' vibrations of three Trpzip2 isotopologues are used as a local probe of the midstrand contacts, ?-turn, and overall ?-sheet content. Our experiments distinguish between a folded state with a type I' ?-turn and a misfolded state with a bulged turn, providing evidence for distinct conformations of the peptide backbone. Transient 2D IR spectroscopy at 45 °C following a laser temperature jump tracks the nanosecond and microsecond kinetics of unfolding and the exchange between conformers. Hydrogen bonds to the peptide backbone are loosened rapidly compared with the 5-ns temperature jump. Subsequently, all relaxation kinetics are characterized by an observed 1.2 ± 0.2-?s exponential. Our time-dependent 2D IR spectra are explained in terms of folding of either native or nonnative contacts from a common compact disordered state. Conversion from the disordered state to the folded state is consistent with a zip-out folding mechanism.
Project description:Characterizing the conformations of protein in the transition state ensemble (TSE) is important for studying protein folding. A promising approach pioneered by Vendruscolo et al. [Nature (London) 409, 641 (2001)] to study TSE is to generate conformations that satisfy all constraints imposed by the experimentally measured φ values that provide information about the native likeness of the transition states. Faísca et al. [J. Chem. Phys. 129, 095108 (2008)] generated conformations of TSE based on the criterion that, starting from a TS conformation, the probabilities of folding and unfolding are about equal through Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) simulations. In this study, we use the technique of constrained sequential Monte Carlo method [Lin et al., J. Chem. Phys. 129, 094101 (2008); Zhang et al. Proteins 66, 61 (2007)] to generate TSE conformations of acylphosphatase of 98 residues that satisfy the φ-value constraints, as well as the criterion that each conformation has a folding probability of 0.5 by Monte Carlo simulations. We adopt a two stage process and first generate 5000 contact maps satisfying the φ-value constraints. Each contact map is then used to generate 1000 properly weighted conformations. After clustering similar conformations, we obtain a set of properly weighted samples of 4185 candidate clusters. Representative conformation of each of these cluster is then selected and 50 runs of Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) simulation are carried using a regrowth move set. We then select a subset of 1501 conformations that have equal probabilities to fold and to unfold as the set of TSE. These 1501 samples characterize well the distribution of transition state ensemble conformations of acylphosphatase. Compared with previous studies, our approach can access much wider conformational space and can objectively generate conformations that satisfy the φ-value constraints and the criterion of 0.5 folding probability without bias. In contrast to previous studies, our results show that transition state conformations are very diverse and are far from nativelike when measured in cartesian root-mean-square deviation (cRMSD): the average cRMSD between TSE conformations and the native structure is 9.4 Å for this short protein, instead of 6 Å reported in previous studies. In addition, we found that the average fraction of native contacts in the TSE is 0.37, with enrichment in native-like β-sheets and a shortage of long range contacts, suggesting such contacts form at a later stage of folding. We further calculate the first passage time of folding of TSE conformations through calculation of physical time associated with the regrowth moves in MCMC simulation through mapping such moves to a Markovian state model, whose transition time was obtained by Langevin dynamics simulations. Our results indicate that despite the large structural diversity of the TSE, they are characterized by similar folding time. Our approach is general and can be used to study TSE in other macromolecules.