Computational membrane biophysics: From ion channel interactions with drugs to cellular function.
ABSTRACT: The rapid development of experimental and computational techniques has changed fundamentally our understanding of cellular-membrane transport. The advent of powerful computers and refined force-fields for proteins, ions, and lipids has expanded the applicability of Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations. A myriad of cellular responses is modulated through the binding of endogenous and exogenous ligands (e.g. neurotransmitters and drugs, respectively) to ion channels. Deciphering the thermodynamics and kinetics of the ligand binding processes to these membrane proteins is at the heart of modern drug development. The ever-increasing computational power has already provided insightful data on the thermodynamics and kinetics of drug-target interactions, free energies of solvation, and partitioning into lipid bilayers for drugs. This review aims to provide a brief summary about modeling approaches to map out crucial binding pathways with intermediate conformations and free-energy surfaces for drug-ion channel binding mechanisms that are responsible for multiple effects on cellular functions. We will discuss post-processing analysis of simulation-generated data, which are then transformed to kinetic models to better understand the molecular underpinning of the experimental observables under the influence of drugs or mutations in ion channels. This review highlights crucial mathematical frameworks and perspectives on bridging different well-established computational techniques to connect the dynamics and timescales from all-atom MD and free energy simulations of ion channels to the physiology of action potentials in cellular models. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Biophysics in Canada, edited by Lewis Kay, John Baenziger, Albert Berghuis and Peter Tieleman.
Project description:Ion conduction mechanisms of ion channels are a long-standing conundrum. Although the molecular dynamics (MD) method has been extensively used to simulate ion conduction dynamics at the atomic level, analysis and interpretation of MD results are not straightforward due to complexity of the dynamics. In our previous reports, we proposed an analytical method called ion-binding state analysis to scrutinize and summarize ion conduction mechanisms by taking advantage of a variety of analytical protocols, e.g., the complex network analysis, sequence alignment, and hierarchical clustering. This approach effectively revealed the ion conduction mechanisms and their dependence on the conditions, i.e., ion concentration and membrane voltage. Here, we present an easy-to-use computational toolkit for ion-binding state analysis, called IBiSA_tools. This toolkit consists of a C++ program and a series of Python and R scripts. From the trajectory file of MD simulations and a structure file, users can generate several images and statistics of ion conduction processes. A complex network named ion-binding state graph is generated in a standard graph format (graph modeling language; GML), which can be visualized by standard network analyzers such as Cytoscape. As a tutorial, a trajectory of a 50 ns MD simulation of the Kv1.2 channel is also distributed with the toolkit. Users can trace the entire process of ion-binding state analysis step by step. The novel method for analysis of ion conduction mechanisms of ion channels can be easily used by means of IBiSA_tools. This software is distributed under an open source license at the following URL: http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/~ktkshr/ibisa_tools/.
Project description:Aggregation can be studied by a range of methods, experimental and computational. Aggregates form in solution, across solid surfaces, and on and in the membrane, where they may assemble into unregulated leaking ion channels. Experimental probes of ion channel conformations and dynamics are challenging. Atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are capable of providing insight into structural details of amyloid ion channels in the membrane at a resolution not achievable experimentally. Since data suggest that late stage Alzheimer's disease involves formation of toxic ion channels, MD simulations have been used aiming to gain insight into the channel shapes, morphologies, pore dimensions, conformational heterogeneity, and activity. These can be exploited for drug discovery. Here we describe computational methods to model amyloid ion channels containing the ?-sheet motif at atomic scale and to calculate toxic pore activity in the membrane.
Project description:This study presents a novel computational approach to study molecular recognition and binding kinetics for drug-like compounds dissociating from a flexible protein system. The intermediates and their free energy profile during ligand association and dissociation processes control ligand-protein binding kinetics and bring a more complete picture of ligand-protein binding. The method applied the milestoning theory to extract kinetics and thermodynamics information from running short classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations for frames from a given dissociation path. High-dimensional ligand-protein motions (3<i>N</i>-6 degrees of freedom) during ligand dissociation were reduced by use of principal component modes for assigning more than 100 milestones, and classical MD runs were allowed to travel multiple milestones to efficiently obtain ensemble distribution of initial structures for MD simulations and estimate the transition time and rate during ligand traveling between milestones. We used five pyrazolourea ligands and cyclin-dependent kinase 8 with cyclin C (CDK8/CycC) as our model system as well as metadynamics and a pathway search method to sample dissociation pathways. With our strategy, we constructed the free energy profile for highly mobile biomolecular systems. The computed binding free energy and residence time correctly ranked the pyrazolourea ligand series, in agreement with experimental data. Guided by a barrier of a ligand passing an ?C helix and activation loop, we introduced one hydroxyl group to parent compounds to design our ligands with increased residence time and validated our prediction by experiments. This work provides a novel and robust approach to investigate dissociation kinetics of large and flexible systems for understanding unbinding mechanisms and designing new small-molecule drugs with desired binding kinetics.
Project description:Developing an understanding of the mechanism of voltage-gated ion channels in molecular terms requires knowledge of the structure of the active and resting conformations. Although the active-state conformation is known from x-ray structures, an atomic resolution structure of a voltage-dependent ion channel in the resting state is not currently available. This has motivated various efforts at using computational modeling methods and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to provide the missing information. A comparison of recent computational results reveals an emerging consensus on voltage-dependent gating from computational modeling and MD simulations. This progress is highlighted in the broad context of preexisting work about voltage-gated channels.
Project description:The discovery of new drugs that selectively block or modulate ion channels has great potential to provide new treatments for a host of conditions. One promising avenue revolves around modifying or mimicking certain naturally occurring ion channel modulator toxins. This strategy appears to offer the prospect of designing drugs that are both potent and specific. The use of computational modeling is crucial to this endeavor, as it has the potential to provide lower cost alternatives for exploring the effects of new compounds on ion channels. In addition, computational modeling can provide structural information and theoretical understanding that is not easily derivable from experimental results. In this review, we look at the theory and computational methods that are applicable to the study of ion channel modulators. The first section provides an introduction to various theoretical concepts, including force-fields and the statistical mechanics of binding. We then look at various computational techniques available to the researcher, including molecular dynamics, brownian dynamics, and molecular docking systems. The latter section of the review explores applications of these techniques, concentrating on pore blocker and gating modifier toxins of potassium and sodium channels. After first discussing the structural features of these channels, and their modes of block, we provide an in-depth review of past computational work that has been carried out. Finally, we discuss prospects for future developments in the field.
Project description:A current hypothesis for the pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD) proposes that amyloid-? (A?) peptides induce uncontrolled, neurotoxic ion flux across cellular membranes. The mechanism of ion flux is not fully understood because no experiment-based A? channel structures at atomic resolution are currently available (only a few polymorphic states have been predicted by computational models). Structural models and experimental evidence lend support to the view that the A? channel is an assembly of loosely associated mobile ?-sheet subunits. Here, using planar lipid bilayers and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we show that amino acid substitutions can be used to infer which residues are essential for channel structure. We created two A?(1-42) peptides with point mutations: F19P and F20C. The substitution of Phe19 with Pro inhibited channel conductance. MD simulation suggests a collapsed pore of F19P channels at the lower bilayer leaflet. The kinks at the Pro residues in the pore-lining ?-strands induce blockage of the solvated pore by the N-termini of the chains. The cysteine mutant is capable of forming channels, and the conductance behavior of F20C channels is similar to that of the wild type. Overall, the mutational analysis of the channel activity performed in this work tests the proposition that the channels consist of a ?-sheet rich organization, with the charged/polar central strand containing the mutation sites lining the pore, and the C-terminal strands facing the hydrophobic lipid tails. A detailed understanding of channel formation and its structure should aid studies of drug design aiming to control unregulated A?-dependent ion fluxes.
Project description:Approximately 90% of the structures in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) were obtained by X-ray crystallography or electron microscopy. Whereas the overall quality of structure is considered high, thanks to a wide range of tools for structure validation, uncertainties may arise from density maps of small molecules, such as organic ligands, ions or water, which are non-covalently bound to the biomolecules. Even with some experience and chemical intuition, the assignment of such disconnected electron densities is often far from obvious. In this study, we suggest the use of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and free energy calculations, which are well-established computational methods, to aid in the assignment of ambiguous disconnected electron densities. Specifically, estimates of (i) relative binding affinities, for instance between an ion and water, (ii) absolute binding free energies, i.e., free energies for transferring a solute from bulk solvent to a binding site, and (iii) stability assessments during equilibrium simulations may reveal the most plausible assignments. We illustrate this strategy using the crystal structure of the fluoride specific channel (Fluc), which contains five disconnected electron densities previously interpreted as four fluoride and one sodium ion. The simulations support the assignment of the sodium ion. In contrast, calculations of relative and absolute binding free energies as well as stability assessments during free MD simulations suggest that four of the densities represent water molecules instead of fluoride. The assignment of water is compatible with the loss of these densities in the non-conductive F82I/F85I mutant of Fluc. We critically discuss the role of the ion force fields for the calculations presented here. Overall, these findings indicate that MD simulations and free energy calculations are helpful tools for modeling water and ions into crystallographic density maps.
Project description:A long-sought, and thus far elusive, goal has been to develop drugs to manage diseases of excitability. One such disease that affects millions each year is cardiac arrhythmia, which occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become disordered, sometimes causing sudden death. Pharmacological management of cardiac arrhythmia has failed because it is not possible to predict how drugs that target cardiac ion channels, and have intrinsically complex dynamic interactions with ion channels, will alter the emergent electrical behavior generated in the heart. Here, we applied a computational model, which was informed and validated by experimental data, that defined key measurable parameters necessary to simulate the interaction kinetics of the anti-arrhythmic drugs flecainide and lidocaine with cardiac sodium channels. We then used the model to predict the effects of these drugs on normal human ventricular cellular and tissue electrical activity in the setting of a common arrhythmia trigger, spontaneous ventricular ectopy. The model forecasts the clinically relevant concentrations at which flecainide and lidocaine exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, arrhythmia. Experiments in rabbit hearts and simulations in human ventricles based on magnetic resonance images validated the model predictions. This computational framework initiates the first steps toward development of a virtual drug-screening system that models drug-channel interactions and predicts the effects of drugs on emergent electrical activity in the heart.
Project description:Pharmacological inhibition of cardiac hERG K(+) channels is associated with increased risk of lethal arrhythmias. Many drugs reduce hERG current by directly binding to the channel, thereby blocking ion conduction. Mutation of two aromatic residues (F656 and Y652) substantially decreases the potency of numerous structurally diverse compounds. Nevertheless, some drugs are only weakly affected by mutation Y652A. In this study we utilize molecular dynamics simulations and docking studies to analyze the different effects of mutation Y652A on a selected number of hERG blockers. MD simulations reveal conformational changes in the binding site induced by mutation Y652A. Loss of ?-?-stacking between the two aromatic residues induces a conformational change of the F656 side chain from a cavity facing to cavity lining orientation. Docking studies and MD simulations qualitatively reproduce the diverse experimentally observed modulatory effects of mutation Y652A and provide a new structural interpretation for the sensitivity differences.
Project description:Identifying binding hotspots on protein surfaces is of prime interest in structure-based drug discovery, either to assess the tractability of pursuing a protein target or to drive improved potency of lead compounds. Computational approaches to detect such regions have traditionally relied on energy minimization of probe molecules onto static protein conformations in the absence of the natural aqueous environment. Advances in high performance computing now allow us to assess hotspots using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. MD simulations integrate protein flexibility and the complicated role of water, thereby providing a more realistic assessment of the complex kinetics and thermodynamics at play. In this review, we describe the evolution of various cosolvent-based MD techniques and highlight a myriad of potential applications for such technologies in computational drug development.