Allostery in proteins involves, broadly speaking, ligand-induced conformational transitions that modulate function at active sites distal to where the ligand binds. In contrast, the concept of cooperativity (in the sense used in phase transition theory) is often invoked to understand protein folding and, therefore, function. The modern view on allostery is one based on dynamics and hinges on the time-dependent interactions between key residues in a complex network, interactions that determine the free-energy profile for the reaction at the distal site. Here, we merge allostery and cooperativity, and we discuss a joint model with features of both. In our model, the active-site reaction is replaced by the reaction pathway that leads to protein folding, and the presence or absence of the effector is replaced by mutant-vs-wild type changes in key residues. To this end, we employ our recently introduced time-lagged independent component analysis (tICA) correlation approach [Ray et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 118(43) (2021), e2100943118] to identify the allosteric role of distant residues in the folded-state dynamics of a large protein. In this work, we apply the technique to identify key residues that have a significant role in the folding of a small, fast folding-protein, chignolin. Using extensive enhanced sampling simulations, we critically evaluate the accuracy of the predictions by mutating each residue one at a time and studying how the mutations change the underlying free energy landscape of the folding process. We observe that mutations in those residues whose associated backbone torsion angles have a high correlation score can indeed lead to loss of stability of the folded configuration. We also provide a rationale based on interaction energies between individual residues with the rest of the protein to explain this effect. From these observations, we conclude that the tICA correlation score metric is a useful tool for predicting the role of individual residues in the correlated dynamics of proteins and can find application to the problem of identifying regions of protein that are either most vulnerable to mutations or—mutatis mutandis—to binding events that affect their functionality.
Predicting residue cooperativity during protein folding: A combined, molecular dynamics and unsupervised learning approach
Praveen Ranganath Prabhakar, Dhiman Ray, Ioan Andricioaei; Predicting residue cooperativity during protein folding: A combined, molecular dynamics and unsupervised learning approach. J. Chem. Phys. 7 April 2023; 158 (13): 134108. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0140113
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