Structural determinants of ligand imprinting: A molecular dynamics simulation study of subtilisin in aqueous and apolar solvents

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The phenomenon known as "ligand imprinting" or "ligand-induced enzyme memory" was first reported in 1988, when Russell and Klibanov observed that lyophilizing subtilisin in the presence of competitive inhibitors (that were subsequently removed) could significantly enhance its activity in an apolar solvent. (Russell and Klibanov, J Biol Chem 1988;263:11624-11626). They further observed that this enhancement did not occur when similar assays were carried out in water. Herein, we shed light on the molecular determinants of ligand imprinting using a molecular dynamics (MD) approach. To simulate the effect of placing an enzyme in the presence of a ligand before its lyophilization, an inhibitor was docked in the active site of subtilisin and 20 ns MD simulations in water were performed. The ligand was then removed and the resulting structure was used for subsequent MD runs using hexane and water as solvents. As a control, the same simulation setup was applied using the structure of subtilisin in the absence of the inhibitor. We observed that the ligand maintains the active site in an open conformation and that this configuration is retained after the removal of the inhibitor, when the simulations are carried out in hexane. In agreement with experimental findings, the structural configuration induced by the ligand is lost when the simulations take place in water. Our analysis of fluctuations indicates that this behavior is a result of the decreased flexibility displayed by enzymes in an apolar solvent, relatively to the aqueous situation.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)379-386
JournalProtein Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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