30.00.00 ATOMIC AND MOLECULAR PHYSICS
31.00.00 Electronic structure of atoms and molecules: theory
- 32.00.00 Atomic properties and interactions with photons (for quantum chaos, see 05.45.Mt; for standards of calibration, see 06.20.fb; for relativistic and quantum electrodynamic effects, see 31.30.J-)
- 33.00.00 Molecular properties and interactions with photons
- 34.00.00 Atomic and molecular collision processes and interactions (for atomic, molecular, and ionic collisions in plasma, see 52.20.Hv; for atoms and molecules of astrophysical interest, see 95.30.Dr, Ft; see also 98.38.Bn and 98.58.Bz in interstellar media in as
- 36.00.00 Exotic atoms and molecules; macromolecules; clusters
- 37.00.00 Mechanical control of atoms, molecules, and ions (see also 82.37.Gk STM and AFM manipulations of a single molecule in physical chemistry and chemical physics; for atom manipulation in nanofabrication and processing, see 81.16.Ta; see also 03.75.-b Matter
Monte Carlo Simulation Methods for Studying the Thermodynamics of Ligand Binding & Transfer Processes in Biomolecules
R. Thomas Ullmann
- The binding and transfer of ligands is of central
importance for the function of many biomolecular
systems. The main topic of this thesis is the
development and application of Monte Carlo (MC)
simulation methods for studying complex ligand
binding equilibria which can also involve
conformational changes. The simulated systems
were described by microstates within a continuum
electrostatics/molecular mechanics (CE/MM) model
of the receptor-ligand system. The CE/MM modeling
methodology was improved. The improvements led to
more detailed molecular models that enable a more
realistic reproduction of system properties and
environmental conditions. The developed simulation
methods were applied to biomolecular systems whose
function involves aspects that are important for
the understanding of bioenergetic energy
transduction. The results of this thesis are
presented in five articles that are published in
peer reviewed scientific journals.
Manuscript A presents the Monte Carlo simulation
software GMCT which was largely developed in this
thesis. The software offers a variety of different
simulation methods that allow the user to harness
the full potential of CE/MM models in the simulation
of complex receptor systems.
Manuscript B presents a novel theoretical framework
for free energy calculations with the free energy
perturbation method. The novel framework is more
broadly applicable and can lead to more efficient
simulations than previous formulations. The
derivation of the formalism also led to interesting
insights into general statistical mechanics. The
formalism was implemented in GMCT and could already
be used fruitfully for the free energy calculations
presented in Manuscripts C and D.
Manuscript C demonstrates the application of free
energy measures of cooperativity to study the
coupling of protonation, reduction and conformational
change in azurin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PaAz).
Such a coupling is prototypic for bioenergetic systems
because it forms the thermodynamic basis of their
energy transducing function. PaAz is an experimentally
well characterized, small electron transport protein.
For this reason, PaAz was used here as model system
to demonstrate the usefulness of cooperativity free
energies in detecting and quantifying thermodynamic
coupling between events in complex biomolecular
systems. The results of this study led to new insight
that could help to determine the still enigmatic
physiological role of PaAz.
In Manuscript D, free energy calculations were
applied to study the thermodynamics of transport
through the ammonium transporter Amt-1 from
Archaeoglobus fulgidus (AfAmt-1). Ammonium is the most
directly utilizable nitrogen source for plants and
microorganisms. AfAmt-1 and its homologues facilitate
the transport of ammonia/ammonium across biological
membranes in living beings from all domains of life.
It is intensely debated how these proteins perform
their function and whether ammonia or its protonated
form ammonium is actually transported. The study
extended upon previous theoretical studies by
including the effects of substrate concentration,
electrochemical transmembrane gradients,
proton-coupled binding equilibria and competitive
binding of different ligand species. It was found
that the transported species is most likely the
ammonium ion. An ammonia/proton symport mechanism
that involves a pair of coplanar histidine residues
at the center of the transmembrane pore as transient
proton acceptor is made plausible by the high
genetic conservation of these residues.
Manuscript E presents a first application of the
microstate description within a CE/MM model to the
simulation of the non-equilibrium dynamics of a
molecular system. We simulated the re-reduction
kinetics of the primary electron donor in the
photocycle of the bacterial photosynthetic reaction
center from Blastochloris viridis. The simulation
results are in very good agreement with
experimentally measured data.
Coarse-grained Modeling of Protein Dynamics using Elastic Network Models
- Dynamics is crucial for the functioning of biological macromolecules. Because of severe limitations in studying protein dynamics experimentally or with all-atom simulations, coarse-grained methods, especially elastic network models (ENMs), are frequently employed. In the last years, studies on various proteins showed that ENMs reliably reproduce experimental data, despite the simplified protein representation and the purely harmonic potential function. This work on two proteins with very different dynamical properties highlights the remarkable success of ENMs and shows which kind of questions can be answered using coarse-grained methods.
The allosteric enzyme aminoglycoside phosphotransferase(3')-IIIa (APH), which confers resistance against a broad range of aminoglycoside antibiotics to pathogenic bacteria, drastically changes its flexibility upon binding of substrates, but without changing its average conformation. In contrast, the homotrimeric vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein G (VSV-G), which triggers the pH-dependent fusion of viral and host membrane, undergoes a large structural rearrangement. A striking difference between the two proteins is their shape. VSV-G contains weakly constrained protein segments, the fusion loops, which can undergo large-scale motions at low energetic cost, whereas APH is not obviously arranged into different protein segments. Nevertheless, ENM calculations show that also APH consists of independently moving segments with correlated internal motion, so-called dynamic domains. The concept of dynamic domains can explain the differential effects of ligand binding on the dynamics of APH.
The first chapter of this thesis describes how experimental evidence for the importance of dynamics successively replaced the former idea of static proteins, and explains the dynamic basis of ligand binding, allostery and conformational changes. In the second chapter, theoretical methods for the analysis of protein dynamics are introduced, with emphasis on the ENM-based methods used in my studies. The studies are summarized in the third chapter. In the study on APH, I employ the Gaussian network model to analyze the ligand-dependent dynamics, the broad substrate specificity and the perturbation-sensitivity of the ligand binding sites. In a second study, ENM-based as well as all-atom molecular dynamics simulations are used to analyze the conformational change of VSV-G. Both approaches detect the fusion loops of VSV-G as most flexible parts of the protein, and thus as most likely starting point for the structural rearrangement, but only the all-atom model can generate deviations from the average structure at low pH. The last study describes the implementation and application of a dynamic domain assignment method, called CovarDom, which is based on covariances of residue fluctuations. Calculation of dynamic domains for a large protein set demonstrates the general applicability of CovarDom.