Fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) can discriminate between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids via molecular mechanisms that are not understood. Molecular dynamics computer calculations are used to suggest the relationship between tertiary structure and binding specificity. Three separate 1-ns simulations, with explicit solvent, are presented: 1) oleic acid (C18:1 cis) bound to adipocyte FABP, 2) oleic acid bound to human muscle FABP, and 3) elaidic acid (C18:1 trans) bound to human muscle FABP. The average structural, dynamic, and energetic properties of the trajectory were analyzed, as were the motional correlations. The molecular dynamics trajectories reveal intriguing differences among all three systems. For example, the two proteins have different strengths of interaction energy with the ligand and different motional coupling, as seen with covariance analysis. This suggests distinctive molecular behavior of monounsaturated fatty acids in the two similar proteins. An importance scale, based on motional correlation and interaction energy between protein and ligand, is proposed, to help identify amino acids involved with the discrimination of ligand saturation state or geometric isomerization.
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