Ras conformational switching: simulating nucleotide-dependent conformational transitions with accelerated molecular dynamics.
- Author(s): Grant, Barry J
- Gorfe, Alemayehu A
- McCammon, J Andrew
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000325
Ras mediates signaling pathways controlling cell proliferation and development by cycling between GTP- and GDP-bound active and inactive conformational states. Understanding the complete reaction path of this conformational change and its intermediary structures is critical to understanding Ras signaling. We characterize nucleotide-dependent conformational transition using multiple-barrier-crossing accelerated molecular dynamics (aMD) simulations. These transitions, achieved for the first time for wild-type Ras, are impossible to observe with classical molecular dynamics (cMD) simulations due to the large energetic barrier between end states. Mapping the reaction path onto a conformer plot describing the distribution of the crystallographic structures enabled identification of highly populated intermediate structures. These structures have unique switch orientations (residues 25-40 and 57-75) intermediate between GTP and GDP states, or distinct loop3 (46-49), loop7 (105-110), and alpha5 C-terminus (159-166) conformations distal from the nucleotide-binding site. In addition, these barrier-crossing trajectories predict novel nucleotide-dependent correlated motions, including correlations of alpha2 (residues 66-74) with alpha3-loop7 (93-110), loop2 (26-37) with loop10 (145-151), and loop3 (46-49) with alpha5 (152-167). The interconversion between newly identified Ras conformations revealed by this study advances our mechanistic understanding of Ras function. In addition, the pattern of correlated motions provides new evidence for a dynamic linkage between the nucleotide-binding site and the membrane interacting C-terminus critical for the signaling function of Ras. Furthermore, normal mode analysis indicates that the dominant collective motion that occurs during nucleotide-dependent conformational exchange, and captured in aMD (but absent in cMD) simulations, is a low-frequency motion intrinsic to the structure.