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Hierarchical Ensembles of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins at Atomic Resolution in Molecular Dynamics Simulations

By Lisa M Pietrek, Lukas S Stelzl, Gerhard Hummer

Posted 09 Aug 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/731133 (published DOI: 10.1021/acs.jctc.9b00809)

Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) constitute a large fraction of the human proteome and are critical in the regulation of cellular processes. A detailed understanding of the conformational dynamics of IDPs could help to elucidate their roles in health and disease. However the inherent flexibility of IDPs makes structural studies and their interpretation challenging. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations could address this challenge in principle, but inaccuracies in the simulation models and the need for long simulations have stymied progress. To overcome these limitations, we adopt an hierarchical approach that builds on the "flexible meccano" model of Bernad├│ et al. (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2005, 127, 17968-17969). First, we exhaustively sample small IDP fragments in all-atom simulations to capture local structure. Then, we assemble the fragments into full-length IDPs to explore the stereochemically possible global structures of IDPs. The resulting ensembles of three-dimensional structures of full-length IDPs are highly diverse, much more so than in standard MD simulation. For the paradigmatic IDP ╬▒-synuclein, our ensemble captures both local structure, as probed by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and its overall dimension, as obtained from small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) in solution. By generating representative and meaningful starting ensembles, we can begin to exploit the massive parallelism afforded by current and future high-performance computing resources for atomic-resolution characterization of IDPs.

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