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Protein Sci. 2009 May;18(5):949-59. doi: 10.1002/pro.105.

Building a foundation for structure-based cellulosome design for cellulosic ethanol: Insight into cohesin-dockerin complexation from computer simulation.

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Center for Molecular Biophysics, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830, USA.


The organization and assembly of the cellulosome, an extracellular multienzyme complex produced by anaerobic bacteria, is mediated by the high-affinity interaction of cohesin domains from scaffolding proteins with dockerins of cellulosomal enzymes. We have performed molecular dynamics simulations and free energy calculations on both the wild type (WT) and D39N mutant of the C. thermocellum Type I cohesin-dockerin complex in aqueous solution. The D39N mutation has been experimentally demonstrated to disrupt cohesin-dockerin binding. The present MD simulations indicate that the substitution triggers significant protein flexibility and causes a major change of the hydrogen-bonding network in the recognition strips-the conserved loop regions previously proposed to be involved in binding-through electrostatic and salt-bridge interactions between beta-strands 3 and 5 of the cohesin and alpha-helix 3 of the dockerin. The mutation-induced subtle disturbance in the local hydrogen-bond network is accompanied by conformational rearrangements of the protein side chains and bound water molecules. Additional free energy perturbation calculations of the D39N mutation provide differences in the cohesin-dockerin binding energy, thus offering a direct, quantitative comparison with experiments. The underlying molecular mechanism of cohesin-dockerin complexation is further investigated through the free energy profile, that is, potential of mean force (PMF) calculations of WT cohesin-dockerin complex. The PMF shows a high-free energy barrier against the dissociation and reveals a stepwise pattern involving both the central beta-sheet interface and its adjacent solvent-exposed loop/turn regions clustered at both ends of the beta-barrel structure.

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