Ester-linked hen egg white lysozyme shows a compact fold in a molecular dynamics simulation – possible causes and sensitivity of experimentally observable quantities to structural changes maintaining this compact fold


W. F. van Gunsteren, Laboratory of Physical Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland
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Prediction and understanding of the folding and stability of the 3D structure of proteins is still a challenge. The different atomic interactions, such as non polar contacts and hydrogen bonding, are known but their exact relative weights and roles when contributing to protein folding and stability are not identified. Initiated by a previous molecular dynamics simulation of fully ester-linked hen egg white lysozyme (HEWL), which showed a more compact fold of the ester-linked molecule compared to the native one, three variants of this protein are analyzed in the present study. These are 129-residue native HEWL, partly ester-linked HEWL, in which only 34 peptide linkages that are not involved in the helical or β-strand parts of native HEWL were replaced by ester linkages, and fully (126 residues) ester-linked HEWL. Native and partly ester-linked HEWL showed comparable behaviour, whereas fully ester-linked HEWL could not maintain the native secondary structure of HEWL in the simulation and adopted a more compact fold. The conformational changes were analyzed by comparing simulation averaged values of quantities that can be measured by NMR, such as 1H–15N backbone order parameters, residual dipolar couplings, proton–proton NOE distances and 3J-couplings with the corresponding values derived from experimental NMR data for native HEWL. The information content of the latter appeared to be insufficient to detect the local conformational rearrangements upon esterification of the loop regions of the protein. For fully ester-linked HEWL, a significantly reduced agreement was observed. Upon esterification, the backbone–side chain and side chain–side chain hydrogen-bonding pattern of HEWL changes to maintain its compactness and thus the structural stability of the ester-linked lysozymes.