Papaioannou, Anastasios; Kuyucak, Serdar; Kuncic, Zdenka
Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Insulin: Elucidating the Conformational Changes that Enable Its Binding
PLOS ONE, 10 Art. No. e0144058, DEC 2 2015

A sequence of complex conformational changes is required for insulin to bind to the insulin receptor. Recent experimental evidence points to the B chain C-terminal (BC-CT) as the location of these changes in insulin. Here, we present molecular dynamics simulations of insulin that reveal new insights into the structural changes occurring in the BC-CT. We find three key results: 1) The opening of the BC-CT is inherently stochastic and progresses through an open and then a "wide-open" conformation-the wide-open conformation is essential for receptor binding, but occurs only rarely. 2) The BC-CT opens with a zipper-like mechanism, with a hinge at the Phe24 residue, and is maintained in the dominant closed/inactive state by hydrophobic interactions of the neighboring Tyr26, the critical residue where opening of the BC-CT (activation of insulin) is initiated. 3) The mutation Y26N is a potential candidate as a therapeutic insulin analogue. Overall, our results suggest that the binding of insulin to its receptor is a highly dynamic and stochastic process, where initial docking occurs in an open conformation and full binding is facilitated through interactions of insulin receptor residues with insulin in its wide-open conformation.


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