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Cell Cycle. 2012 Jun 15;11(12):2239-47. doi: 10.4161/cc.20333. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

Why is F19Ap53 unable to bind MDM2? Simulations suggest crack propagation modulates binding.

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Bioinformatics Centre, Bose Institute, Kolkata, India.


Why doesn't the F19A mutant of p53 bind to MDM2? Binding thermodynamics have suggested that the loss of packing interactions upon mutating Phe into Ala sidechain results in destabilizing the binding free energy between p53 and MDM2. Does this mutation also modulate the initial recognition between p53 and MDM2? We look at atomistic computer simulations of the process of the initial encounter between wild type p53 peptide and its F19A mutant with the N-terminal domain of MDM2. These simulations show that binding is characterized by a complex multistep process. It starts with the capture of F19 of wild type p53 by certain residues in the MDM2 binding pocket. This initial step anchors the peptide onto the surface of MDM2, and with the consequent reduction in the search space of the peptide, the peptide docks into the partially occluded surface of MDM2. This is similar to a crack forming in an otherwise occluded hydrophobic cavity in MDM2, and the peptide, docked through F19, modulates the propagation of this crack, which subsequently results in the stepwise docking of the rest of the peptide through insertions of W23 and L26. The lack of the bulky sidechain of F in the F19A mutant results in the absence of the initial "grasp" complex, and hence the mutant peptide diffuses randomly on the surface of MDM2 without binding. This is the first such demonstration of the possibility that a "kinetic" effect may partly underlie the destabilized thermodynamics of binding of F19A and is a feature that appears to be conserved in evolution. The observations by Wallace et al. (Mol Cell 2006; 23:251-63) that despite the inability of F19A to bind at the N-terminal domain of MDM2, it gets ubiquitinated, can now be partly understood based on a mechanism whereby the occupation of the binding pocket by ligands/peptides induces, via crack propagation and the dynamics of gatekeeper Y100, the ubiquitination signal for interactions between the acidic domain of MDM2 and the DNA binding domain of p53.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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