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Proteins. 2007 Jun 1;67(4):886-96.

Toward the mechanism of dynamical couplings and translocation in hepatitis C virus NS3 helicase using elastic network model.

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Laboratory of Computational Biology, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Hepatitis C virus NS3 helicase is an enzyme that unwinds double-stranded polynucleotides in an ATP-dependent reaction. It provides a promising target for small molecule therapeutic agents against hepatitis C. Design of such drugs requires a thorough understanding of the dynamical nature of the mechanochemical functioning of the helicase. Despite recent progress, the detailed mechanism of the coupling between ATPase activity and helicase activity remains unclear. Based on an elastic network model (ENM), we apply two computational analysis tools to probe the dynamical mechanism underlying the allosteric coupling between ATP binding and polynucleotide binding in this enzyme. The correlation analysis identifies a network of hot-spot residues that dynamically couple the ATP-binding site and the polynucleotide-binding site. Several of these key residues have been found by mutational experiments as functionally important, while our analysis also reveals previously unexplored hot-spot residues that are potential targets for future mutational studies. The conformational changes between different crystal structures of NS3 helicase are found to be dominated by the lowest frequency mode solved from the ENM. This mode corresponds to a hinge motion of the highly flexible domain 2. This motion simultaneously modulates the opening/closing of the domains 1-2 cleft where ATP binds, and the domains 2-3 cleft where the polynucleotide binds. Additionally, a small twisting motion of domain 1, observed in both mode 1 and the computed ATP binding induced conformational change, fine-tunes the binding affinity of the domains 1-3 interface for the polynucleotide. The combination of these motions facilitates the translocation of a single-stranded polynucleotide in an inchworm-like manner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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