Key words: Free energy simulations
Peptide conformational equilibria in solution
Conformational free energy
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Abstract. We have calculated the free energy differences between four conformers of the linear form of the opioid pentapeptide DPDPE in aqueous solution. The conformers are Cyc, representing the structure adopted by the linear peptide prior to disulfide bond formation, β C and β E , two slightly different β-turns previously identified in unconstrained molecular dynamics simulations, and Ext, an extended structure. Our simulations indicate that β E is the most stable of the studied conformers of linear DPDPE in aqueous solution, with β C , Cyc and Ext having free energies higher by 2.3, 6.3, and 28.2 kcal/mol, respectively. The free energy differences of 4.0 kcal/mol between β C and Cyc, and 6.3 kcal/mol between β E and Cyc, reflect the cost of pre-organizing the linear peptide into a conformation conducive for disulfide bond formation. Such a conformational change is a pre-requisite for the chemical reaction of S–S bond formation to proceed. The relatively low population of the cyclic-like structure agrees qualitatively with observed lower potency and different receptor specificity of the linear form relative to the cyclic peptide, and with previous unconstrained simulation results. Free energy component analysis indicates that the moderate stability difference of 4.0–6.3 kcal/mol between the β-turns and the cyclic-like structure results from cancellation of two large opposing effects. In accord with intuition, the relaxed β-turns have conformational strain 43–45 kcal/mol lower than the Cyc structure. However, the cyclic-like conformer interacts with water about 39 kcal/mol strongly than the open β-turns. Our simulations are the first application of the recently developed multidimensional conformational free energy thermodynamic integration (CFTI) protocol to a solvated system, with fast convergence of the free energy obtained by fixing all flexible dihedrals. Additionally, the availability of the CFTI multidimensional free energy gradient leads to a new decomposition scheme, giving the contribution of each fixed dihedral to the overall free energy change and providing additional insight into the microscopic mechanisms of the studied processes.
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