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  1. The human estrogen receptor α (hER α ) is involved in the regulation of growth, development, and tissue homeostasis. Agonists that bind to the receptor’s ligand-binding domain (LBD) lead to recruitment of coactivators and the enhancement of gene expression. In contrast, antagonists bind to the LBD and block the binding of coactivators thus decreasing gene expressions. In this work, we carry out simulations using the AWSEM (Associative memory, Water mediated, Structure and Energy Model)-Suite force field along with the 3SPN.2C force field for DNA to predict the structure of hER α and study its dynamics when binding to DNA and coactivators. Using simulations of antagonist-bound hER α and agonist-bound hER α by themselves and also along with bound DNA and coactivators, principal component analyses and free energy landscape analyses capture the pathway of domain–domain communication for agonist-bound hER α . This communication is mediated through the hinge domains that are ordinarily intrinsically disordered. These disordered segments manipulate the hinge domains much like the strings of a marionette as they twist in different ways when antagonists or agonists are bound to the ligand-binding domain. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 7, 2024
  2. Bacteriophage T7 gp4 helicase has served as a model system for understanding mechanisms of hexameric replicative helicase translocation. The mechanistic basis of how nucleoside 5′-triphosphate hydrolysis and translocation of gp4 helicase are coupled is not fully resolved. Here, we used a thermodynamically benchmarked coarse-grained protein force field, Associative memory, Water mediated, Structure and Energy Model (AWSEM), with the single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) force field 3SPN.2C to investigate gp4 translocation. We found that the adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) at the subunit interface stabilizes the subunit–subunit interaction and inhibits subunit translocation. Hydrolysis of ATP to adenosine 5′-diphosphate enables the translocation of one subunit, and new ATP binding at the new subunit interface finalizes the subunit translocation. The LoopD2 and the N-terminal primase domain provide transient protein–protein and protein–DNA interactions that facilitate the large-scale subunit movement. The simulations of gp4 helicase both validate our coarse-grained protein–ssDNA force field and elucidate the molecular basis of replicative helicase translocation. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Schneidman-Duhovny, Dina (Ed.)
    We present OpenAWSEM and Open3SPN2, new cross-compatible implementations of coarse-grained models for protein (AWSEM) and DNA (3SPN2) molecular dynamics simulations within the OpenMM framework. These new implementations retain the chemical accuracy and intrinsic efficiency of the original models while adding GPU acceleration and the ease of forcefield modification provided by OpenMM’s Custom Forces software framework. By utilizing GPUs, we achieve around a 30-fold speedup in protein and protein-DNA simulations over the existing LAMMPS-based implementations running on a single CPU core. We showcase the benefits of OpenMM’s Custom Forces framework by devising and implementing two new potentials that allow us to address important aspects of protein folding and structure prediction and by testing the ability of the combined OpenAWSEM and Open3SPN2 to model protein-DNA binding. The first potential is used to describe the changes in effective interactions that occur as a protein becomes partially buried in a membrane. We also introduced an interaction to describe proteins with multiple disulfide bonds. Using simple pairwise disulfide bonding terms results in unphysical clustering of cysteine residues, posing a problem when simulating the folding of proteins with many cysteines. We now can computationally reproduce Anfinsen’s early Nobel prize winning experiments by using OpenMM’s Custom Forces framework to introduce a multi-body disulfide bonding term that prevents unphysical clustering. Our protein-DNA simulations show that the binding landscape is funneled towards structures that are quite similar to those found using experiments. In summary, this paper provides a simulation tool for the molecular biophysics community that is both easy to use and sufficiently efficient to simulate large proteins and large protein-DNA systems that are central to many cellular processes. These codes should facilitate the interplay between molecular simulations and cellular studies, which have been hampered by the large mismatch between the time and length scales accessible to molecular simulations and those relevant to cell biology. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    The phase problem in X-ray crystallography arises from the fact that only the intensities, and not the phases, of the diffracting electromagnetic waves are measured directly. Molecular replacement can often estimate the relative phases of reflections starting with those derived from a template structure, which is usually a previously solved structure of a similar protein. The key factor in the success of molecular replacement is finding a good template structure. When no good solved template exists, predicted structures based partially on templates can sometimes be used to generate models for molecular replacement, thereby extending the lower bound of structural and sequence similarity required for successful structure determination. Here, the effectiveness is examined of structures predicted by a state-of-the-art prediction algorithm, the Associative memory, Water-mediated, Structure and Energy Model Suite ( AWSEM-Suite ), which has been shown to perform well in predicting protein structures in CASP13 when there is no significant sequence similarity to a solved protein or only very low sequence similarity to known templates. The performance of AWSEM-Suite structures in molecular replacement is discussed and the results show that AWSEM-Suite performs well in providing useful phase information, often performing better than I-TASSER-MR and the previous algorithm AWSEM-Template . 
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  6. Abstract

    To function, biomolecules require sufficient specificity of interaction as well as stability to live in the cell while still being able to move. Thermodynamic stability of only a limited number of specific structures is important so as to prevent promiscuous interactions. The individual interactions in proteins, therefore, have evolved collectively to give funneled minimally frustrated landscapes but some strategic parts of biomolecular sequences located at specific sites in the structure have been selected to be frustrated in order to allow both motion and interaction with partners. We describe a framework efficiently to quantify and localize biomolecular frustration at atomic resolution by examining the statistics of the energy changes that occur when the local environment of a site is changed. The location of patches of highly frustrated interactions correlates with key biological locations needed for physiological function. At atomic resolution, it becomes possible to extend frustration analysis to protein-ligand complexes. At this resolution one sees that drug specificity is correlated with there being a minimally frustrated binding pocket leading to a funneled binding landscape. Atomistic frustration analysis provides a route for screening for more specific compounds for drug discovery.

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  7. Filaments made up of different isoforms of tau protein are associated with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Filaments made up of the 4R-tau isoform, which has four repeat regions (R1 to R4), are found in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, while filaments made of the 3R-tau isoform, which contains only three repeat units (R1, R3, and R4), are found in patients with Pick’s disease (frontotemporal dementia). In this work, a predictive coarse-grained protein force field, the associative memory water-mediated structure and energy model (AWSEM), is used to study the energy landscapes of nucleation of the two different fibrils derived from patients with Pick’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The landscapes for nucleating both fibril types contain amorphous oligomers leading to branched structures as well as prefibrillar oligomers. These two classes of oligomers differ in their structural details: The prefibrillar oligomers have more parallel in-register β-strands, which ultimately lead to amyloid fibrils, while the amorphous oligomers are characterized by a near random β-strand stacking, leading to a distinct amorphous phase. The landscape topography suggests that there must be significant structural reordering, or “backtracking,” to transit from the amorphous aggregation channel to the fibrillization channel. Statistical mechanical perturbation theory allows us to evaluate the effects of changing concentration on the aggregation free-energy landscapes and to predict the effects of phosphorylation, which is known to facilitate the aggregation of tau repeats.

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