The reactive center loop insertion in α-1-antitrypsin captured by accelerated molecular dynamics simulation

Ole Juul Andersen, Michael Wulff Risør, Emil Christian Poulsen, Niels Christian Nielsen, Yinglong Miao, Jan Johannes Enghild, Birgit Schiøtt

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Protease inhibition by metastable serine protease inhibitors (serpins) is mediated by one of the largest functional intradomain conformational changes known in biology. In this extensive structural rearrangement, protease-serpin complex formation triggers cleavage of the serpin reactive center loop (RCL), its subsequent insertion into central β-sheet A, and covalent trapping of the target protease. In this study, we present the first detailed accelerated molecular dynamics simulation of the insertion of the fully cleaved RCL in α-1-Antitrypsin (α1AT), the archetypal member of the family of human serpins. Our results reveal internal water pathways that allow the initial incorporation of side chains of RCL residues into the protein interior. We observed structural plasticity of the helix F (hF) element that blocks the RCL path in the native state, which is in excellent agreement with previous experimental reports. Furthermore, the simulation suggested a novel role of hF and the connected turn (thFs3A) as chaperones that support the insertion process by reducing the conformational space available to the RCL. Transient electrostatic interactions of RCL residues potentially fine-Tune the serpin inhibitory activity. On the basis of our simulation, we generated the α1AT mutants K168E, E346K, and K168E/E346K and analyzed their inhibitory activity along with their intrinsic stability and heat-induced polymerization. Remarkably, the E346K mutation exhibited enhanced inhibitory activity along with an increased rate of premature structural collapse (polymerization), suggesting a significant role of E346 in the gatekeeping of the strain in the metastable native state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-646
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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