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J Mol Biol. 2005 Apr 15;347(5):1077-101.

The relationship between the flexibility of proteins and their conformational states on forming protein-protein complexes with an application to protein-protein docking.

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  • 1Biomolecular Modelling Laboratory, Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, Lincoln's Inn Fields Laboratories, 44 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PX, UK.


We investigate the extent to which the conformational fluctuations of proteins in solution reflect the conformational changes that they undergo when they form binary protein-protein complexes. To do this, we study a set of 41 proteins that form such complexes and whose three-dimensional structures are known, both bound in the complex and unbound. We carry out molecular dynamics simulations of each protein, starting from the unbound structure, and analyze the resulting conformational fluctuations in trajectories of 5 ns in length, comparing with the structure in the complex. It is found that fluctuations take some parts of the molecules into regions of conformational space close to the bound state (or give information about it), but at no point in the simulation does each protein as whole sample the complete bound state. Subsequent use of conformations from a clustered MD ensemble in rigid-body docking is nevertheless partially successful when compared to docking the unbound conformations, as long as the unbound conformations are themselves included with the MD conformations and the whole globally rescored. For one key example where sub-domain motion is present, a ribonuclease inhibitor, principal components analysis of the MD was applied and was also able to produce conformations for docking that gave enhanced results compared to the unbound. The most significant finding is that core interface residues show a tendency to be less mobile (by size of fluctuation or entropy) than the rest of the surface even when the other binding partner is absent, and conversely the peripheral interface residues are more mobile. This surprising result, consistent across up to 40 of the 41 proteins, suggests different roles for these regions in protein recognition and binding, and suggests ways that docking algorithms could be improved by treating these regions differently in the docking process.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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