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J Mol Biol. 1997 Nov 21;274(1):114-31.

Ligand-induced conformational changes in ras p21: a normal mode and energy minimization analysis.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


A normal mode and energy minimization of ras p21 is used to determine the flexibility of the protein and the origin of the conformational differences between GTP and GDP-bound forms. To preserve the integrity of the structures, a hydration shell of water molecules was included as part of the system. Certain low-frequency modes were found to have high involvement coefficients with the conformational transition between the GTP and GDP-bound structures; the involvement coefficients of some of the modes increase when the gamma-phosphate group is removed. Two unstable modes that appear in the GTP-bound structure upon deletion of the gamma-phosphate group were determined and shown to have dominant contributions in the regions of switch I and switch II; there was also a significant displacement of loop 1. The initial motion in these regions is predicted by the modes to be approximately perpendicular to the direction of the transition from the GTP-bound state to the GDP-bound state. The overall conformational change in the switch I and II regions involves rearrangements of the protein backbone within these regions, rather than rigid body motion. Differences in the low-frequency modes of the GTP and GDP-bound forms appear to play a role in ligand binding. A coupling between the helix alpha3 position and the deletion of the gamma-phosphate group may be involved in the interaction with GAP. The oncogenic mutation G12D leads to a global increase in the rigidity of the protein. Thus, the mutant is likely to have a higher barrier for the conformational change to the inactive form; this would slow the transition and could be related to its oncogenic properties.

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