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Toward a Detailed Description of the Pathways of Allosteric Communication in the GroEL Chaperonin through Atomistic Simulation

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journal contribution
posted on 28.02.2012 by Thomas J. Piggot, Richard B. Sessions, Steven G. Burston
GroEL, along with its coprotein GroES, is essential for ensuring the correct folding of unfolded or newly synthesized proteins in bacteria. GroEL is a complex, allosteric molecule, composed of two heptameric rings stacked back to back, that undergoes large structural changes during its reaction cycle. These structural changes are driven by the cooperative binding and subsequent hydrolysis of ATP, by GroEL. Despite numerous previous studies, the precise mechanisms of allosteric communication and the associated structural changes remain elusive. In this paper, we describe a series of all-atom, unbiased, molecular dynamics simulations over relatively long (50–100 ns) time scales of a single, isolated GroEL subunit and also a heptameric GroEL ring, in the presence and absence of ATP. Combined with results from a distance restraint-biased simulation of the single ring, the atomistic details of the earliest stages of ATP-driven structural changes within this complex molecule are illuminated. Our results are in broad agreement with previous modeling studies of isolated subunits and with a coarse-grained, forcing simulation of the single ring. These are the first reported all-atom simulations of the GroEL single-ring complex and provide a unique insight into the role of charged residues K80, K277, R284, R285, and E388 at the subunit interface in transmission of the allosteric signal. These simulations also demonstrate the feasibility of performing all-atom simulations of very large systems on sufficiently long time scales on typical high performance computing facilities to show the origins of the earliest events in biologically relevant processes.