Molecular Dynamics Simulations of a Powder Model of the Intrinsically Disordered Protein Tau

Yann Fichou, Matthias Heyden, Giuseppe Zaccai, Martin Weik, Douglas J. Tobias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The tau protein, whose aggregates are involved in Alzheimers disease, is an intrinsically disordered protein (IDP) that regulates microtubule activity in neurons. An IDP lacks a single, well-defined structure and, rather, constantly exchanges among multiple conformations. In order to study IDP dynamics, the combination of experimental techniques, such as neutron scattering, and computational techniques, such as molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, is a powerful approach. Amorphous hydrated powder samples have been very useful for studying protein internal dynamics experimentally, e.g., using neutron scattering. Thus, there is demand for realistic in silico models of hydrated protein powders. Here we present an MD simulation analysis of a powder hydrated at 0.4 g water/g protein of the IDP tau in the temperature range 20-300 K. By comparing with neutron scattering data, we identify the protein-water interface as the predominant feature determining IDP dynamics. The so-called protein dynamical transition is shown to be attenuated, but not suppressed, in the parts of the protein that are not exposed to the solvent. In addition, we find similarities in the mean-squared displacements of the core of a globular protein and "dry" clusters formed by the IDP in hydrated powders. Thus, the ps to ns dynamics of proteins in hydrated powders originate mainly from those residues in contact with solvent. We propose that by measuring the dynamics of protein assemblies, such as aggregates, one might assess qualitatively their state of hydration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12580-12589
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number39
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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