Most mutations at position 15 in the N-terminal arm of the regulatory protein AraC leave the protein incapable of responding to arabinose and inducing the proteins required for arabinose catabolism. Mutations at other positions of the arm do not have this behavior. Simple energetic analysis of the interactions between the arm and bound arabinose do not explain the uninducibility of AraC with mutations at position 15. Extensive molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, carried out largely on the Open Science Grid, were done of the wild-type protein with and without bound arabinose and of all possible mutations at position 15, many of which were constructed and measured for this work. Good correlation was found for deviation of arm position during the simulations and inducibility as measured in vivo of the same mutant proteins. Analysis of the MD trajectories revealed that preservation of the shape of the arm is critical to inducibility. To maintain the correct shape of the arm, the strengths of three interactions observed to be strong in simulations of the wild-type AraC protein need to be preserved. These interactions are between arabinose and residue 15, arabinose and residues 8–9, and residue 13 and residue 15. The latter interaction is notable because residues L9, Y13, F15, W95, and Y97 form a hydrophobic cluster which needs to be preserved for retention of the correct shape. Proteins 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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