Coarse-Grained Simulations of Protein-Protein Association: An Energy Landscape Perspective

August 22, 2012

Understanding protein-protein association is crucial in revealing the molecular basis of many biological processes. Here, we describe a theoretical simulation pipeline to study protein-protein association from an energy landscape perspective. First, a coarse-grained model is implemented and its applications are demonstrated via molecular dynamics simulations for several protein complexes. Second, an enhanced search method is used to efficiently sample a broad range of protein conformations. Third, multiple conformations are identified and clustered from simulation data and further projected on a three-dimensional globe specifying protein orientations and interacting energies. Results from several complexes indicate that the crystal-like conformation is favorable on the energy landscape even if the landscape is relatively rugged with metastable conformations. A closer examination on molecular forces shows that the formation of associated protein complexes can be primarily electrostatics-driven, hydrophobics-driven, or a combination of both in stabilizing specific binding interfaces. Taken together, these results suggest that the coarse-grained simulations and analyses provide an alternative toolset to study protein-protein association occurring in functional biomolecular complexes.

Results from: Krishnakumar M. Ravikumar, Wei Huang and Sichun Yang
Biophysical Journal, Volume 103, Issue 4, 837-845, 22 August 2012