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Exploring Conformational Dynamics of the Extracellular Venus flytrap Domain of the GABAB Receptor: A Path-Metadynamics Study

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journal contribution
posted on 15.04.2020, 13:03 by Linn S. M. Evenseth, Riccardo Ocello, Mari Gabrielsen, Matteo Masetti, Maurizio Recanatini, Ingebrigt Sylte, Andrea Cavalli
γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS). Dysfunctional GABAergic neurotransmission is associated with numerous neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. The GABAB receptor (GABAB-R) is a heterodimeric class C G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) comprised of GABAB1a/b and GABAB2 subunits. The orthosteric binding site for GABA is located in the extracellular Venus flytrap (VFT) domain of the GABAB1a/b. Knowledge about molecular mechanisms and druggable receptor conformations associated with activation is highly important to understand the receptor function and for rational drug design. Currently, the conformational changes of the receptor upon activation are not well described. On the basis of other class C members, the VFT is proposed to fluctuate between an open/inactive and closed/active state and one of these conformations is stabilized upon ligand binding. In the present study, we investigated the dynamics of the GABAB1b-R VFT in the apo form by combining unbiased molecular dynamics with path-metadynamics. Our simulations confirmed the open/inactive and closed/active state as the main conformations adopted by the receptor. Sizeable energy barriers were found between stable minima, suggesting a relatively slow interconversion. Previously undisclosed metastable states were also identified, which might hold potential for future drug discovery efforts.