Investigating ligand-regulated allosteric coupling between protein domains is fundamental to understand cell-life regulation. The Hsp70 family of chaperones represents an example of proteins in which ATP binding and hydrolysis at the Nucleotide Binding Domain (NBD) modulate substrate recognition at the Substrate Binding Domain (SBD). Herein, a comparative analysis of an allosteric (Hsp70-DnaK) and a non-allosteric structural homolog (Hsp110-Sse1) of the Hsp70 family is carried out through molecular dynamics simulations, starting from different conformations and ligand-states. Analysis of ligand-dependent modulation of internal fluctuations and local deformation patterns highlights the structural and dynamical changes occurring at residue level upon ATP-ADP exchange, which are connected to the conformational transition between closed and open structures. By identifying the dynamically responsive protein regions and specific cross-domain hydrogen-bonding patterns that differentiate Hsp70 from Hsp110 as a function of the nucleotide, we propose a molecular mechanism for the allosteric signal propagation of the ATP-encoded conformational signal.
Allostery, or the capability of proteins to respond to ligand binding events with a variation in structure or dynamics at a distant site, is a common feature for biomolecular function and regulation in a large number of proteins. Intra-protein connections and inter-residue coordinations underlie allosteric mechanisms and react to binding primarily through a finely tuned modulation of motions and structures at the microscopic scale. Hence, all-atom molecular dynamics simulations are suitable to investigate the molecular basis of allostery. Moreover, understanding intra-protein communication pathways at atomistic resolutions offers unique opportunities in rational drug design. Proteins of the Hsp70 family are allosteric molecular chaperones involved in maintaining cellular protein homeostasis. These proteins are involved in several types of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, aging and infections and are therefore pharmaceutically relevant targets. In this work we have analyzed, by multiple molecular dynamics simulations, the long-range dynamical and conformational effects of ligands bound to Hsp70, and found relevant differences in comparison to the known non-allosteric structural homolog Hsp110. The resulting model of the mechanism of allosteric propagation offers the opportunity of identifying on-pathway allosteric druggable sites, which we propose could guide rational drug-design efforts targeting Hsp70.