Zhang, Liqun; Borthakur, Susmita; Buck, Matthias
Dissociation of a Dynamic Protein Complex Studied by All-Atom Molecular Simulations
BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 110:877-886, FEB 23 2016

The process of protein complex dissociation remains to be understood at the atomic level of detail. Computers now allow microsecond timescale molecular-dynamics simulations, which make the visualization of such processes possible. Here, we investigated the dissociation process of the EphA2-SHIP2 SAM-SAM domain heterodimer complex using unrestrained all-atom molecular-dynamics simulations. Previous studies on this system have shown that alternate configurations are sampled, that their interconversion can be fast, and that the complex is dynamic by nature. Starting from different NMR-derived structures, mutants were designed to stabilize a subset of configurations by swapping ion pairs across the protein-protein interface. We focused on two mutants, K956D/D1235K and R957D/D1223R, with attenuated binding affinity compared with the wild-type proteins. In contrast to calculations on the wild-type complexes, the majority of simulations of these mutants showed protein dissociation within 2.4 mu s. During the separation process, we observed domain rotation and pivoting as well as a translation and simultaneous rolling, typically to alternate and weaker binding interfaces. Several unsuccessful recapturing attempts occurred once the domains were moderately separated. An analysis of protein solvation suggests that the dissociation process correlates with a progressive loss of protein-protein contacts. Furthermore, an evaluation of internal protein dynamics using quasi-harmonic and order parameter analyses indicates that changes in protein internal motions are expected to contribute significantly to the thermodynamics of protein dissociation. Considering protein association as the reverse of the separation process, the initial role of charged/polar interactions is emphasized, followed by changes in protein and solvent dynamics. The trajectories show that protein separation does not follow a single distinct pathway, but suggest that the mechanism of dissociation is common in that it initially involves transitions to surfaces with fewer, less favorable contacts compared with those seen in the fully formed complex.


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