Specific amino acid recognition by aspartyl-tRNA synthetase studied by free energy simulations

Journal of Molecular Biology
G ArchontisM Karplus


Specific amino acid binding by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases is necessary for correct translation of the genetic code. To obtain insight into the origin of the specificity, the binding to aspartyl-tRNA synthetase (AspRS) of the negatively charged substrate aspartic acid and the neutral analogue asparagine are compared by use of molecular dynamics and free energy simulations. Simulations of the Asn-AspRS complex show that although Asn cannot bind in the same position as Asp, several possible positions exist 1.5 to 2 A away from the Asp site. The binding free energy of Asn in three of these positions was compared to that of Asp through alchemical free energy simulations, in which Asp is gradually mutated ito Asn in the complex with the enzyme. To correctly account for the electrostatic interactions in the system (including bulk solvent), a recently developed hybrid approach was used, in which the region of the mutation site is treated microscopically, whereas distant protein and solvent are treated by continuum electrostatics. Seven free energy simulations were performed in the protein and two in solution. The various Asn positions and orientations sampled at the Asn endpoints of the protein simulations yielded very similar free ene...Continue Reading


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