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E. Paci; A. Caflisch; A. Pl├╝ckthun; M. Karplus

Journal: J. Mol. Biol.
Year: 2001
Volume: 314
Issue: 3
Pages: 589-605
DOI: 10.1006/jmbi.2001.5103
Type of Publication: Journal Article

Animals; Antibodies; Binding Sites, Antibody; Complementarity Determining Regions; Computer Simulation; Fluorescein; Haptens; Humans; Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments; Kinetics; Microscopy, Atomic Force; Models, Molecular; Solvents; Static Electricity; Thermodynamics


The unbinding of fluorescein from the single-chain Fv fragment of the 4D5Flu antibody is investigated by biased molecular dynamics with an implicit solvation model. To obtain statistically meaningful results, a large number of unbinding trajectories are calculated; they involve a total simulation time of more than 200 ns. Simulations are carried out with a time-dependent perturbation and in the presence of a constant force. The two techniques, which provide complementary information, induce unbinding by favoring an increase in the distance between the ligand and the antibody. This distance is an appropriate progress variable for the dissociation reaction and permits direct comparison of the unbinding forces in the simulations with data from atomic force microscopy (AFM). The time-dependent perturbation generates unfolding pathways that are close to equilibrium and can be used to reconstruct the mean force; i.e. the derivative of the potential of mean force, along the reaction coordinate. This is supported by an analysis of the overall unbinding profile and the magnitude of the mean force, which are similar to those of the unbinding force (i.e. the external force due to the time-dependent perturbation) averaged over several unbinding events. The multiple simulations show that unbinding proceeds along a rather well-defined pathway for a broad range of effective pulling speeds. Initially, there is a distortion of the protein localized in the C-terminal region followed by the fluorescein exit from the binding site. This occurs in steps that involve breaking of specific electrostatic and van der Waals interactions. It appears that the simulations do not explore the same barriers as those measured in the AFM experiments because of the much higher unfolding speed in the former. The dependence of the force on the logarithm of the loading rate is linear and the slope is higher than in the AFM, in agreement with experiment in other systems, where different slopes were observed for different regimes. Based on the unbinding events, mutations in the 4D5Flu antigen binding site are predicted to result in significant changes in the unbinding force.