1 Biomolecular Sciences, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Københavns Universitet2 unknown3 Biomolecular Sciences, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Københavns Universitet
Three-dimensional domain swapping is an important mode of protein association leading to the formation of stable dimers. Monomers associating via this mechanism mutually exchange a domain to form a homodimer. Classical cadherins, an increasingly important target for anticancer therapy, use domain swapping to mediate cell adhesion. However, despite its importance, the molecular mechanism of domain swapping is still debated. Here, we study the conformational changes that lead to activation and dimerization via domain swapping of E-cadherin. Using state-of-the-art enhanced sampling atomistic simulations, we reconstruct its conformational free energy landscape, obtaining the free energy profile connecting the inactive and active form. Our simulations predict that the E-cadherin monomer populates the open and closed forms almost equally, which is in agreement with the proposed "selected fit" mechanism in which monomers in an active conformational state bind to form a homodimer, analogous to the conformational selection mechanism often observed in ligand-target binding. Moreover, we find that the open state population is increased in the presence of calcium ions at the extracellular boundary, suggesting their possible role as allosteric activators of the conformational change.
Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, 2015, Vol 11, Issue 4, p. 1354-1359