Molecular dynamics study of Ca2+ binding loop variants of silver hake parvalbumin with aspartic acid at the "gateway" position

Kamau Fahie, Rebecca Pitts, Kelly M. Elkins, Donald J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The helix-loop-helix (i.e., EF-hand) Ca2+ ion binding motif is characteristic of a large family of high-affinity calcium ion binding proteins, including the parvalbumins, oncomodulins and calmodulins. In this work we describe a set of molecular dynamics computations on the major parvalbumin from the silver hake (SHPV-B) and on functional fragments of this protein, consisting of the first four helical regions (the ABCD fragment), and the internal helix-loop-helix region (the CD fragment). In both whole protein and protein fragments (i.e., ABCD and CD fragments), the 9th loop residue in the calcium ion binding site in the CD helix-loop-helix region (the so-called "gateway" position) has been mutated from glutamic acid to aspartic acid. Aspartic acid is one of the most common residues found at the gateway position in other (non-parvalbumin) EF-hand proteins, but has never been found at the gateway position of any parvalbumin. (Interestingly, aspartic acid does occur at the gateway position in the closely related rat and human oncomodulins.) Consistent with experimental observations, the results of our molecular dynamics simulations show that incorporation of aspartic acid at the gateway position is very disruptive to the structural integrity of the calcium ion coordination site in the whole protein. The aspartic acid mutation is somewhat less disruptive to the calcium ion coordination sites in the two parvalbumin fragments (i.e., the ABCD and CD fragments), presumably due to the higher degree of motional freedom allowable in these protein fragments. One problem associated with the E59D whole protein variant is a prohibitively close approach of the aspartate carboxyl group to the CD calcium ion observed in the energy-minimized (pre-molecular dynamics) structure. This steric situation does not emerge during energy-minimization of the wild-type protein. The damage to the structural integrity of the calcium ion coordination site in the whole protein E59D variant is not relieved during the molecular dynamics simulation. In fact, during the course of the 300 picosecond simulation, all of the calcium ion ligands leave the primary coordination sphere. In addition, the conserved hydrogen-bonds (in the short β-sheet structure) that links the CD site to the symmetry-related EF site (in the non-mutated whole protein) is also somewhat disrupted in the E59D whole protein variant. These results suggest that the Ca2+ ion binding deficiencies in the CD loop are related, at least in part, to the unique interaction that exists between the paired CD and EF hands in the whole protein. Our theoretical results correlate well with previous studies on engineered EF-hand proteins and with all of our experimental evidence on whole silver hake parvalbumin and enzymatically-generated parvalbumin fragments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-837
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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