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Proteins. 2009 May 1;75(2):499-508. doi: 10.1002/prot.22265.

PIK3CA somatic mutations in breast cancer: Mechanistic insights from Langevin dynamics simulations.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Computational Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.


Somatic mutations in PIK3CA (phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase, catalytic subunit, alpha isoform) are reported in breast and other human cancers to concentrate at hotspots within its kinase and helical domains. Most of these mutations cause kinase gain of function in vitro and are associated with oncogenicity in vivo. However, little is known about the mechanisms driving tumor development. We have performed computational structural studies on a homology model of wildtype PIK3CA plus recurrent H1047R, H1047L, and P539R mutations, located in the kinase and helical domains, respectively. The time evolution of the structures show that H1047R/L mutants exhibit a larger area of the catalytic cleft between the kinase N- and C-lobes compared with the wildtype that could facilitate the entrance of substrates. This larger area might yield enhanced substrate-to-product turnover associated with oncogenicity. In addition, the H1047R/L mutants display increased kinase activation loop mobility, compared with the wildtype. The P539R mutant forms more hydrogen bonds and salt-bridge interactions than the wildtype, properties that are associated with enhanced thermostability. Mutant-specific differences in the catalytic cleft and activation loop behavior suggest that structure-based mutant-specific inhibitors can be designed for PIK3CA-positive breast cancers.

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