Determining the three-dimensional structure of myoglobin, the first solved structure of a protein, fundamentally changed the way protein function was understood. Even more revolutionary was the information that came afterward: protein dynamics play a critical role in biological functions. Therefore, understanding conformational dynamics is crucial to obtaining a more complete picture of protein evolution. We recently analyzed the evolution of different protein families including green fluorescent proteins (GFPs), β-lactamase inhibitors, and nuclear receptors, and we observed that the alteration of conformational dynamics through allosteric regulation leads to functional changes. Moreover, proteome-wide conformational dynamics analysis of more than 100 human proteins showed that mutations occurring at rigid residue positions are more susceptible to disease than flexible residue positions. These studies suggest that disease-associated mutations may impair dynamic allosteric regulations, leading to loss of function. Thus, in this study, we analyzed the conformational dynamics of the wild-type light chain subunit of human ferritin protein along with the neutral and disease forms. We first performed replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations of wild-type and mutants to obtain equilibrated dynamics and then used perturbation response scanning (PRS), where we introduced a random Brownian kick to a position and computed the fluctuation response of the chain using linear response theory. Using this approach, we computed the dynamic flexibility index (DFI) for each position in the chain for the wild-type and the mutants. DFI quantifies the resilience of a position to a perturbation and provides a flexibility/rigidity measurement for a given position in the chain. The DFI analysis reveals that neutral variants and the wild-type exhibit similar flexibility profiles in which experimentally determined functionally critical sites act as hinges in controlling the overall motion. However, disease mutations alter the conformational dynamic profile, making hinges more loose (i.e., softening the hinges), thus impairing the allosterically regulated dynamics.
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