Optimization of binding electrostatics: Charge complementarity in the barnase-barstar protein complex

Authors

  • Lee-Peng Lee,

    1. Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA
    2. Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Bruce Tidor

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA
    • Dr. Bruce Tidor, Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA; fax: (617) 252-1816.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Theoretical and experimental studies have shown that the large desolvation penalty required for polar and charged groups frequently precludes their involvement in electrostatic interactions that contribute strongly to net stability in the folding or binding of proteins in aqueous solution near room temperature. We have previously developed a theoretical framework for computing optimized electrostatic interactions and illustrated use of the algorithm with simplified geometries. Given a receptor and model assumptions, the method computes the ligand-charge distribution that provides the most favorable balance of desolvation and interaction effects on binding. In this paper the method has been extended to treat complexes using actual molecular shapes. The barnase-barstar protein complex was investigated with barnase treated as a target receptor. The atomic point charges of barstar were varied to optimize the electrostatic binding free energy. Barnase and natural barstar form a tight complex (Kd ∼ 10−14 M) with many charged and polar groups near the interface that make this a particularly relevant system for investigating the role of electrostatic effects on binding. The results show that sets of barstar charges (resulting from optimization with different constraints) can be found that give rise to relatively large predicted improvements in electrostatic binding free energy. Principles for enhancing the effect of electrostatic interactions in molecular binding in aqueous environments are discussed in light of the optima. Our findings suggest that, in general, the enhancements in electrostatic binding free energy resulting from modification of polar and charged groups can be substantial. Moreover, a recently proposed definition of electrostatic complementarity is shown to be a useful tool for examining binding interfaces. Finally, calculational results suggest that wild-type barstar is closer to being affinity optimized than is barnase for their mutual binding, consistent with the known roles of these proteins.

Ancillary