Computational Modeling of the Structure, Function and Dynamics of Biomolecular Systems

  • Date: –16:30
  • Location: Biomedicinskt centrum, BMC B21
  • Doctoral student: PhD-student: Yashraj Kulkarni
  • Organiser: Institutionen för kemi-BMC
  • Contact person: Lynn Kamerlin
  • Phone: 018-471 4423
  • Disputation



Proteins are a structurally diverse and functionally versatile class of biomolecules. They perform a variety of life-sustaining biological processes with utmost efficiency. A profound understanding of protein function requires knowledge of its structure. Experimentally determined protein structures can serve as a starting point for computer simulations in order to study their dynamic behavior at a molecular level. In this thesis, computational methods have been used to understand structure-function relationships in two classes of proteins - intrinsically disordered proteins (IDP) and enzymes.

Misfolding and subsequent aggregation of the amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide, an IDP, is associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Besides enriching our understanding of structural dynamics, computational studies on a medically relevant IDP such as Aβ can potentially guide therapeutic development. In the present work, binding interactions of the monomeric form of this peptide with biologically relevant molecular species such as divalent metal ions (Zn2+, Cu2+, Mn2+) and amphiphilic surfactants were characterized using long timescale molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Among the metal ions, while Zn2+ and Cu2+ maintained coordination to a well-defined binding site in Aβ, Mn2+-binding was observed to be comparatively weak and transient. Surfactants with charged headgroups displayed strong binding interaction with Aβ. Complemented by biophysical experiments, these studies provided a multifaceted perspective of Aβ interactions with the partner molecules.

Triosephosphate isomerase (TIM), a highly evolved and catalytically proficient enzyme, was studied using empirical valence bond (EVB) calculations to obtain deeper insights into the catalytic reaction mechanism. Multiple structural features of TIM such as the flexible loop and preorganized active site residues were investigated for their role in enzyme catalysis. The effect of substrate binding was also studied using truncated substrates. Finally, using enhanced sampling methods, dynamic behavior of the catalytically important loop 6 was characterized. The importance of structural stability and flexibility on protein function was illustrated by the work presented in this thesis, thus furthering our scientific understanding of proteins at a molecular level.

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