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Creators/Authors contains: "Zimmerman, Maxwell I."

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  1. Abstract

    Protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions are often considered difficult drug targets because the surfaces involved lack obvious druggable pockets. Cryptic pockets could present opportunities for targeting these interactions, but identifying and exploiting these pockets remains challenging. Here, we apply a general pipeline for identifying cryptic pockets to the interferon inhibitory domain (IID) of Ebola virus viral protein 35 (VP35). VP35 plays multiple essential roles in Ebola’s replication cycle but lacks pockets that present obvious utility for drug design. Using adaptive sampling simulations and machine learning algorithms, we predict VP35 harbors a cryptic pocket that is allosterically coupled to a key dsRNA-binding interface. Thiol labeling experiments corroborate the predicted pocket and mutating the predicted allosteric network supports our model of allostery. Finally, covalent modifications that mimic drug binding allosterically disrupt dsRNA binding that is essential for immune evasion. Based on these results, we expect this pipeline will be applicable to other proteins.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Understanding the structural determinants of a protein’s biochemical properties, such as activity and stability, is a major challenge in biology and medicine. Comparing computer simulations of protein variants with different biochemical properties is an increasingly powerful means to drive progress. However, success often hinges on dimensionality reduction algorithms for simplifying the complex ensemble of structures each variant adopts. Unfortunately, common algorithms rely on potentially misleading assumptions about what structural features are important, such as emphasizing larger geometric changes over smaller ones. Here we present DiffNets, self-supervised autoencoders that avoid such assumptions, and automatically identify the relevant features, by requiring that the low-dimensional representations they learn are sufficient to predict the biochemical differences between protein variants. For example, DiffNets automatically identify subtle structural signatures that predict the relative stabilities of β-lactamase variants and duty ratios of myosin isoforms. DiffNets should also be applicable to understanding other perturbations, such as ligand binding.

     
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  4. Equilibria, or fixed points, play an important role in dynamical systems across various domains, yet finding them can be computationally challenging. Here, we show how to efficiently compute all equilibrium points of discrete-valued, discrete-time systems on sparse networks. Using graph partitioning, we recursively decompose the original problem into a set of smaller, simpler problems that are easy to compute, and whose solutions combine to yield the full equilibrium set. This makes it possible to find the fixed points of systems on arbitrarily large networks meeting certain criteria. This approach can also be used without computing the full equilibrium set, which may grow very large in some cases. For example, one can use this method to check the existence and total number of equilibria, or to find equilibria that are optimal with respect to a given cost function. We demonstrate the potential capabilities of this approach with examples in two scientific domains: computing the number of fixed points in brain networks and finding the minimal energy conformations of lattice-based protein folding models. 
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  5. Abstract

    The SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein is an abundant RNA-binding protein critical for viral genome packaging, yet the molecular details that underlie this process are poorly understood. Here we combine single-molecule spectroscopy with all-atom simulations to uncover the molecular details that contribute to N protein function. N protein contains three dynamic disordered regions that house putative transiently-helical binding motifs. The two folded domains interact minimally such that full-length N protein is a flexible and multivalent RNA-binding protein. N protein also undergoes liquid-liquid phase separation when mixed with RNA, and polymer theory predicts that the same multivalent interactions that drive phase separation also engender RNA compaction. We offer a simple symmetry-breaking model that provides a plausible route through which single-genome condensation preferentially occurs over phase separation, suggesting that phase separation offers a convenient macroscopic readout of a key nanoscopic interaction.

     
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    SARS-CoV-2 has intricate mechanisms for initiating infection, immune evasion/suppression and replication that depend on the structure and dynamics of its constituent proteins. Many protein structures have been solved, but far less is known about their relevant conformational changes. To address this challenge, over a million citizen scientists banded together through the Folding@home distributed computing project to create the first exascale computer and simulate 0.1 seconds of the viral proteome. Our adaptive sampling simulations predict dramatic opening of the apo spike complex, far beyond that seen experimentally, explaining and predicting the existence of ‘cryptic’ epitopes. Different spike variants modulate the probabilities of open versus closed structures, balancing receptor binding and immune evasion. We also discover dramatic conformational changes across the proteome, which reveal over 50 ‘cryptic’ pockets that expand targeting options for the design of antivirals. All data and models are freely available online, providing a quantitative structural atlas. 
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