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A computational investigation on the role of glycosylation in the binding of alpha1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor with two alpha-neurotoxins



Based on the crystal structure of the extracellular domain (ECD) of the mouse nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) alpha1 subunit bound to α-bungarotoxin (α-Btx) we have generated in silico models of the human nAChR α1 bound to α-Btx and α-cobratoxin (α-Cbtx), both in the presence and in the absence of the N-linked carbohydrate chain. To gain further insight into the structural role of glycosylation molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were carried out in explicit solvent so as to compare the conformational dynamics of the binding interface between nAChR α1 and the two toxins. An interesting observation during the course of the MD simulations is the strengthening of the receptor-toxin interaction in the presence of the carbohydrate chain, mediated through a shift in the position of the sugars towards the bound toxin. Critical protein–sugar interactions implicate residues Ser187 and Trp184 of nAChR and Thr6, Ser9, and Thr15 of α-Btx, as well as Thr6 and Pro7 of α-Cbtx. Analysis of the predicted residue-specific intermolecular interactions is intended to inspire biophysical studies on the functional role of glycosylation in the gating mechanism. Proteins 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.