Gedeon, Patrick C.; Thomas, James R.; Madura, Jeffry D.
Accelerated Molecular Dynamics and Protein Conformational Change: A Theoretical and Practical Guide Using a Membrane Embedded Model Neurotransmitter Transporter

Molecular dynamics simulation provides a powerful and accurate method to model protein conformational change, yet timescale limitations often prevent direct assessment of the kinetic properties of interest. A large number of molecular dynamic steps are necessary for rare events to occur, which allow a system to overcome energy barriers and conformationally transition from one potential energy minimum to another. For many proteins, the energy landscape is further complicated by a multitude of potential energy wells, each separated by high free-energy barriers and each potentially representative of a functionally important protein conformation. To overcome these obstacles, accelerated molecular dynamics utilizes a robust bias potential function to simulate the transition between different potential energy minima. This straightforward approach more efficiently samples conformational space in comparison to classical molecular dynamics simulation, does not require advanced knowledge of the potential energy landscape and converges to the proper canonical distribution. Here, we review the theory behind accelerated molecular dynamics and discuss the approach in the context of modeling protein conformational change. As a practical example, we provide a detailed, step-by-step explanation of how to perform an accelerated molecular dynamics simulation using a model neurotransmitter transporter embedded in a lipid cell membrane. Changes in protein conformation of relevance to the substrate transport cycle are then examined using principle component analysis.


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