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Membrane Interactions of α‑Synuclein Revealed by Multiscale Molecular Dynamics Simulations, Markov State Models, and NMR

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journal contribution
posted on 15.03.2021, 14:18 by Sarah-Beth T. A. Amos, Thomas C. Schwarz, Jiye Shi, Benjamin P. Cossins, Terry S. Baker, Richard J. Taylor, Robert Konrat, Mark S. P. Sansom
α-Synuclein (αS) is a presynaptic protein that binds to cell membranes and is linked to Parkinson’s disease (PD). Binding of αS to membranes is a likely first step in the molecular pathophysiology of PD. The αS molecule can adopt multiple conformations, being largely disordered in water, adopting a β-sheet conformation when present in amyloid fibrils, and forming a dynamic multiplicity of α-helical conformations when bound to lipid bilayers and related membrane-mimetic surfaces. Multiscale molecular dynamics simulations in conjunction with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and cross-linking mass spectrometry (XLMS) measurements are used to explore the interactions of αS with an anionic lipid bilayer. The simulations and NMR measurements together reveal a break in the helical structure of the central non-amyloid-β component (NAC) region of αS in the vicinity of residues 65–70, which may facilitate subsequent oligomer formation. Coarse-grained simulations of αS starting from the structure of αS when bound to a detergent micelle reveal the overall pattern of protein contacts to anionic lipid bilayers, while subsequent all-atom simulations provide details of conformational changes upon membrane binding. In particular, simulations and NMR data for liposome-bound αS indicate incipient β-strand formation in the NAC region, which is supported by intramolecular contacts seen via XLMS and simulations. Markov state models based on the all-atom simulations suggest a mechanism of conformational change of membrane-bound αS via a dynamic helix break in the region of residue 65 in the NAC region. The emergent dynamic model of membrane-interacting αS advances our understanding of the mechanism of PD, potentially aiding the design of novel therapeutic approaches.