Along with the growing evidence that relates membrane abnormalities to various diseases, biological membranes have been acknowledged as targets for therapy. Any such abnormality in the membrane structure alters the membrane potential which in principle can be captured by measuring properties of specific optical probes. There exists by now many molecular probes with absorption and fluorescence properties that are sensitive to local membrane structure and to the membrane potential. To suggest new high-performance optical probes for membrane-potential imaging it is important to understand in detail the membrane-induced structural changes in the probe, the membrane association dynamics of the probe, and its membrane-specific optical properties. To contribute to this effort, we here study an optical probe, N-acetylaladanamide (NAAA), in the presence of a POPC lipid bilayer using a multiscale integrated approach to assess the probe structure, dynamics, and optical properties in its membrane-bound status and in water solvent. We find that the probe eventually assimilates into the membrane with a specific orientation where the hydrophobic part of the probe is buried inside the lipid bilayer, while the hydrophilic part is exposed to the water solvent. The computed absorption maximum is red-shifted when compared to the gas phase. The computations of the two-photon absorption and second harmonic generation cross sections of the NAAA probe in its membrane-bound state which is of its first kind in the literature suggest that this probe can be used for imaging the membrane potential using nonlinear optical microscopy.
Molecular simulation has historically been a low-throughput technique, but faster computers and increasing amounts of genomic and structural data are changing this by enabling large-scale automated simulation of, for instance, many conformers or mutants of biomolecules with or without a range of ligands. At the same time, advances in performance and scaling now make it possible to model complex biomolecular interaction and function in a manner directly testable by experiment. These applications share a need for fast and efficient software that can be deployed on massive scale in clusters, web servers, distributed computing or cloud resources.
We describe the application of a special purpose board for molecular dynamics simulations, named MDGRAPE-3, to the problem of simulating periodic bio-molecular systems. MDGRAPE-3 is the latest board in a series of hardware accelerators designed to calculate the nonbonding long-range interactions much more rapidly than normal processors. So far, MDGRAPEs were mainly applied to isolated systems, where very many nonbonded interactions were calculated without any distance cutoff. However, in order to regulate the density and pressure during simulations of membrane embedded protein systems, one has to evaluate interactions under periodic boundary conditions. For this purpose, we implemented the Particle-Mesh Ewald (PME) method, and its approximation with distance cutoffs and charge neutrality as proposed by Wolf et al., using MDGRAPE-3. When the two methods were applied to simulations of two periodic biomolecular systems, a single MDGRAPE-3 achieved 30-40 times faster computation times than a single conventional processor did in the both cases. Both methods are shown to have the same molecular structures and dynamics of the systems.
Monoamine oxidase membrane enzymes are responsible for the catalytic breakdown of extra- and intracellular neurotransmitters and are targets for the development of central nervous system drugs. We analyzed the dynamics of rat MAOA by performing multiple independent molecular dynamics simulations of membrane-bound and membrane-free forms to clarify the relationship between the mechanics of the enzyme and its function, with particular emphasis on the significance of membrane attachment. Principal component analysis of the simulation trajectories as well as correlations in the fluctuations of the residues pointed to the existence of three domains that define the global dynamics of the protein. Interdomain anticorrelated movements in the membrane-bound system facilitated the relaxation of interactions between residues surrounding the substrate cavity and induced conformational changes which expanded the active site cavity and opened putative pathways for substrate uptake and product release. Such events were less pronounced in the membrane-free system due to differences in the nature of the dominant modes of motion. The presence of the lipid environment is suggested to assist in decoupling the interdomain motions, consistent with the observed reduction in enzyme activity under membrane-free conditions. Our results are also in accordance with mutational analysis which shows that modifications of interdomain hinge residues decrease the activity of rat MAOA in solution.
The Na,K-ATPase is essential to all animals, since it maintains the electrochemical gradients that energize the plasma membrane. Naturally occurring inhibitors of the pump from plants have been used pharmaceutically in cardiac treatment for centuries. The inhibitors block the pump by binding on its extracellular side and thereby locking it. To explore the possibilities for designing an alternative way of targeting the pump function, we have examined the structural requirements for binding to a pocket that accommodates the two C-terminal residues, YY, in the crystal structures of the pump. To cover the sample space of two residues, we first performed docking studies with the 400 possible dipeptides. For validation of the in silico predictions, pumps with 13 dipeptide sequences replacing the C-terminal YY were expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes and examined with electrophysiology. Our data show a significant correlation between the docking scores from two different methods and the experimentally determined sodium affinities, which strengthens the previous hypothesis that sodium binding is coupled to docking of the C-terminus. From the dipeptides that dock the best and better than wild-type YY, it may therefore be possible to develop specific drugs targeting a previously unexplored binding pocket in the sodium pump.
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