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Elucidating the Energetics of Entropically Driven Protein–Ligand Association: Calculations of Absolute Binding Free Energy and Entropy

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posted on 20.10.2011, 00:00 by Nan-jie Deng, Peng Zhang, Piotr Cieplak, Luhua Lai
The binding of proteins and ligands is generally associated with the loss of translational, rotational, and conformational entropy. In many cases, however, the net entropy change due to binding is positive. To develop a deeper understanding of the energetics of entropically driven protein–ligand binding, we calculated the absolute binding free energies and binding entropies for two HIV-1 protease inhibitors Nelfinavir and Amprenavir using the double-decoupling method with molecular dynamics simulations in explicit solvent. For both ligands, the calculated absolute binding free energies are in general agreement with experiments. The statistical error in the computed ΔG(bind) due to convergence problem is estimated to be ≥2 kcal/mol. The decomposition of free energies indicates that, although the binding of Nelfinavir is driven by nonpolar interaction, Amprenavir binding benefits from both nonpolar and electrostatic interactions. The calculated absolute binding entropies show that (1) Nelfinavir binding is driven by large entropy change and (2) the entropy of Amprenavir binding is much less favorable compared with that of Nelfinavir. Both results are consistent with experiments. To obtain qualitative insights into the entropic effects, we decomposed the absolute binding entropy into different contributions based on the temperature dependence of free energies along different legs of the thermodynamic pathway. The results suggest that the favorable entropic contribution to binding is dominated by the ligand desolvation entropy. The entropy gain due to solvent release from binding site appears to be more than offset by the reduction of rotational and vibrational entropies upon binding.