Binding free energies and free energy components from molecular dynamics and Poisson-Boltzmann calculations. Application to amino acid recognition by aspartyl-tRNA synthetase
AuthorArchontis, Georgios Z.
SourceJournal of Molecular Biology
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Specific amino acid binding by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRS) is necessary for correct translation of the genetic code. Engineering a modified specificity into aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases has been proposed as a means to incorporate artificial amino acid residues into proteins in vivo. In a previous paper, the binding to aspartyl-tRNA synthetase of the substrate Asp and the analogue Asn were compared by molecular dynamics free energy simulations. Molecular dynamics combined with Poisson-Boltzmann free energy calculations represent a less expensive approach, suitable for examining multiple active site mutations in an engineering effort. Here, Poisson-Boltzmann free energy calculations for aspartyl-tRNA synthetase are first validated by their ability to reproduce selected molecular dynamics binding free energy differences, then used to examine the possibility of Asn binding to native and mutant aspartyl-tRNA synthetase. A component analysis of the Poisson-Boltzmann free energies is employed to identify specific interactions that determine the binding affinities. The combined use of molecular dynamics free energy simulations to study one binding process thoroughly, followed by molecular dynamics and Poisson-Boltzmann free energy calculations to study a series of related ligands or mutations is proposed as a paradigm for protein or ligand design. The binding of Asn in an alternate, "head-to-tail" orientation observed in the homologous asparagine synthetase is analyzed, and found to be more stable than the "Asp-like" orientation studied earlier. The new orientation is probably unsuitable for catalysis. A conserved active site lysine (Lys198 in Escherichia coli) that recognizes the Asp side-chain is changed to a leucine residue, found at the corresponding position in asparaginyl-tRNA synthetase. It is interesting that the binding of Asp is calculated to increase slightly (rather than to decrease), while that of Asn is calculated, as expected, to increase strongly, to the same level as Asp binding. Insight into the origin of these changes is provided by the component analyses. The double mutation (K198L,D233E) has a similar effect, while the triple mutation (K198L,Q199E,D233E) reduces Asp binding strongly. No binding measurements are available, but the three mutants are known to have no ability to adenylate Asn, despite the "Asp-like" binding affinities calculated here. In molecular dynamics simulations of all three mutants, the Asn ligand backbone shifts by 1-2 Å compared to the experimental Asp:AspRS complex, and significant side-chain rearrangements occur around the pocket. These could reduce the ATP binding constant and/or the adenylation reaction rate, explaining the lack of catalytic activity in these complexes. Finally, Asn binding to AspRS with neutral K198 or charged H449 is considered, and shown to be less favorable than with the charged K198 and neutral H449 used in the analysis. © 2001 Academic Press.
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