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  1. Abstract Presenilin-1 (PS1) is the catalytic subunit of γ-secretase which cleaves within the transmembrane domain of over 150 peptide substrates. Dominant missense mutations in PS1 cause early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD); however, the exact pathogenic mechanism remains unknown. Here we combined Gaussian accelerated molecular dynamics (GaMD) simulations and biochemical experiments to determine the effects of six representative PS1 FAD mutations (P117L, I143T, L166P, G384A, L435F, and L286V) on the enzyme-substrate interactions between γ-secretase and amyloid precursor protein (APP). Biochemical experiments showed that all six PS1 FAD mutations rendered γ-secretase less active for the endoproteolytic (ε) cleavage of APP. Distinct low-energy conformational states were identified from the free energy profiles of wildtype and PS1 FAD-mutant γ-secretase. The P117L and L286V FAD mutants could still sample the “Active” state for substrate cleavage, but with noticeably reduced conformational space compared with the wildtype. The other mutants hardly visited the “Active” state. The PS1 FAD mutants were found to reduce γ-secretase proteolytic activity by hindering APP residue L49 from proper orientation in the active site and/or disrupting the distance between the catalytic aspartates. Therefore, our findings provide mechanistic insights into how PS1 FAD mutations affect structural dynamics and enzyme-substrate interactions of γ-secretase and APP. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Abstract Biomolecular recognition including binding of small molecules, peptides and proteins to their target receptors plays a key role in cellular function and has been targeted for therapeutic drug design. However, the high flexibility of biomolecules and slow binding and dissociation processes have presented challenges for computational modelling. Here, we review the challenges and computational approaches developed to characterise biomolecular binding, including molecular docking, molecular dynamics simulations (especially enhanced sampling) and machine learning. Further improvements are still needed in order to accurately and efficiently characterise binding structures, mechanisms, thermodynamics and kinetics of biomolecules in the future. 
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  3. Abstract

    Gaussian accelerated molecular dynamics (GaMD) is a robust computational method for simultaneous unconstrained enhanced sampling and free energy calculations of biomolecules. It works by adding a harmonic boost potential to smooth biomolecular potential energy surface and reduce energy barriers. GaMD greatly accelerates biomolecular simulations by orders of magnitude. Without the need to set predefined reaction coordinates or collective variables, GaMD provides unconstrained enhanced sampling and is advantageous for simulating complex biological processes. The GaMD boost potential exhibits a Gaussian distribution, thereby allowing for energetic reweighting via cumulant expansion to the second order (i.e., “Gaussian approximation”). This leads to accurate reconstruction of free energy landscapes of biomolecules. Hybrid schemes with other enhanced sampling methods, such as the replica‐exchange GaMD (rex‐GaMD) and replica‐exchange umbrella sampling GaMD (GaREUS), have also been introduced, further improving sampling and free energy calculations. Recently, new “selective GaMD” algorithms including the Ligand GaMD (LiGaMD) and Peptide GaMD (Pep‐GaMD) enabled microsecond simulations to capture repetitive dissociation and binding of small‐molecule ligands and highly flexible peptides. The simulations then allowed highly efficient quantitative characterization of the ligand/peptide binding thermodynamics and kinetics. Taken together, GaMD and its innovative variants are applicable to simulate a wide variety of biomolecular dynamics, including protein folding, conformational changes and allostery, ligand binding, peptide binding, protein–protein/nucleic acid/carbohydrate interactions, and carbohydrate/nucleic acid interactions. In this review, we present principles of the GaMD algorithms and recent applications in biomolecular simulations and drug design.

    This article is categorized under:

    Structure and Mechanism > Computational Biochemistry and Biophysics

    Molecular and Statistical Mechanics > Molecular Dynamics and Monte‐Carlo Methods

    Molecular and Statistical Mechanics > Free Energy Methods

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