Jones, Peter M.; George, Anthony M.
Computational analysis of the MCoTI-II plant defence knottin reveals a novel intermediate conformation that facilitates trypsin binding
SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 6 Art. No. 23174, MAR 15 2016

MCoTI-I and II are plant defence proteins, potent trypsin inhibitors from the bitter gourd Momordica cochinchinensis. They are members of the Knottin Family, which display exceptional stability due to unique topology comprising three interlocked disulfide bridges. Knottins show promise as scaffolds for new drug development. A crystal structure of trypsin-bound MCoTI-II suggested that loop 1, which engages the trypsin active site, would show decreased dynamics in the bound state, an inference at odds with an NMR analysis of MCoTI-I, which revealed increased dynamics of loop 1 in the presence of trypsin. To investigate this question, we performed unrestrained MD simulations of trypsin-bound and free MCoTI-II. This analysis found that loop 1 of MCoTI-II is not more dynamic in the trypsin-bound state than in the free state. However, it revealed an intermediate conformation, transitional between the free and bound MCoTI-II states. The data suggest that MCoTI-II binding involves a process in which initial interaction with trypsin induces transitions between the free and intermediate conformations, and fluctuations between these states account for the increase in dynamics of loop 1 observed for trypsinbound MCoTI-I. The MD analysis thus revealed new aspects of the inhibitors' dynamics that may be of utility in drug design.


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