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How does huperzine A enter and leave the binding gorge of acetylcholinesterase? Steered molecular dynamics simulations.

  • Xu, Yechun
  • Shen, Jianhua
  • Luo, Xiaomin
  • Silman, Israel
  • Sussman, Joel L
  • Chen, Kaixian
  • Jiang, Hualiang
Published Article
Journal of the American Chemical Society
Publication Date
Sep 17, 2003
PMID: 16220957


The entering and leaving processes of Huperzine A (HupA) binding with the long active-site gorge of Torpedo californica acetylcholinesterase (TcAChE) have been investigated by using steered molecular dynamics simulations. The analysis of the force required along the pathway shows that it is easier for HupA to bind to the active site of AChE than to disassociate from it, which for the first time interprets at the atomic level the previous experimental result that unbinding process of HupA is much slower than its binding process to AChE. The direct hydrogen bonds, water bridges, and hydrophobic interactions were analyzed during two steered molecular dynamics (SMD) simulations. Break of the direct hydrogen bond needs a great pulling force. The steric hindrance of bottleneck might be the most important factor to produce the maximal rupture force for HupA to leave the binding site but it has a little effect on the binding process of HupA with AChE. Residue Asp72 forms a lot of water bridges with HupA leaving and entering the AChE binding gorge, acting as a clamp to take out HupA from or put HupA into the active site. The flip of the peptide bond between Gly117 and Gly118 has been detected during both the conventional MD and SMD simulations. The simulation results indicate that this flip phenomenon could be an intrinsic property of AChE and the Gly117-Gly118 peptide bond in both HupA bound and unbound AChE structures tends to adopt the native enzyme structure. At last, in a vacuum the rupture force is increased up to 1500 pN while in water solution the greatest rupture force is about 800 pN, which means water molecules in the binding gorge act as lubricant to facilitate HupA entering or leaving the binding gorge.

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