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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Aug 25;106(34):14349-54. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904214106. Epub 2009 Aug 17.

The intrinsic dynamics of enzymes plays a dominant role in determining the structural changes induced upon inhibitor binding.

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Department of Computational Biology, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


The conformational flexibility of target proteins continues to be a major challenge in accurate modeling of protein-inhibitor interactions. A fundamental issue, yet to be clarified, is whether the observed conformational changes are controlled by the protein or induced by the inhibitor. Although the concept of induced fit has been widely adopted for describing the structural changes that accompany ligand binding, there is growing evidence in support of the dominance of proteins' intrinsic dynamics which has been evolutionarily optimized to accommodate its functional interactions. The wealth of structural data for target proteins in the presence of different ligands now permits us to make a critical assessment of the balance between these two effects in selecting the bound forms. We focused on three widely studied drug targets, HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, p38 MAP kinase, and cyclin-dependent kinase 2. A total of 292 structures determined for these enzymes in the presence of different inhibitors and unbound form permitted us to perform an extensive comparative analysis of the conformational space accessed upon ligand binding, and its relation to the intrinsic dynamics before ligand binding as predicted by elastic network model analysis. Our results show that the ligand selects the conformer that best matches its structural and dynamic properties among the conformers intrinsically accessible to the protein in the unliganded form. The results suggest that simple but robust rules encoded in the protein structure play a dominant role in predefining the mechanisms of ligand binding, which may be advantageously exploited in designing inhibitors.

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