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Proteins. 2010 Sep;78(12):2679-90. doi: 10.1002/prot.22782.

Exploring the role of the phospholipid ligand in endothelial protein C receptor: a molecular dynamics study.

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  • 1Istituto di Tecnologie Biomediche-Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Segrate (Mi), Italy.


Endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR) is a CD1-like transmembrane glycoprotein with important regulatory roles in protein C (PC) pathway, enhancing PC's anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, and antiapoptotic activities. Similarly to homologous CD1d, EPCR binds a phospholipid [phosphatidylethanolamine (PTY)] in a groove corresponding to the antigen-presenting site, although it is not clear if lipid exchange can occur in EPCR as in CD1d. The presence of PTY seems essential for PC gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla) domain binding. However, the lipid-free form of the EPCR has not been characterized. We have investigated the structural role of PTY on EPCR, by multiple molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of ligand bound and unbound forms of the protein. Structural changes, subsequent to ligand removal, led to identification of two stable and folded ligand-free conformations. Compared with the bound form, unbound structures showed a narrowing of the A' pocket and a high flexibility of the helices around it, in agreement with CD1d simulation. Thus, a lipid exchange with a mechanism similar to CD1d is proposed. In addition, unbound conformations presented a reduced interaction surface for Gla domain, confirming the role of PTY in establishing the proper EPCR conformation for the interaction with its partner protein. Single MD simulations were also obtained for 29 mutant models with predicted structural stability and impaired binding ability. Ligand affinity calculations, based on linear interaction energy method, showed that substitution-induced conformational changes affecting helices around the A' pocket were associated to a reduced binding affinity. Mutants responsible for this effect may represent useful reagents for experimental tests.

Copyright 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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