Both function and dysfunction of serine protease inhibitors (serpins) involve massive conformational change in their tertiary structure but the dynamics facilitating these events remain poorly understood. We have studied the dynamic preludes to conformational change in the serpin plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1). We report the first multi-microsecond atomistic molecular dynamics simulations of PAI-1 and compare the data with experimental hydrogen/deuterium-exchange data (HDXMS). The simulations reveal notable conformational flexibility of helices D, E and F and major fluctuations are observed in the W86-loop which occasionally leads to progressive detachment of β-strand 2 A from β-strand 3 A. An interesting correlation between Cα-RMSD values from simulations and experimental HDXMS data is observed. Helices D, E and F are known to be important for the overall stability of active PAI-1 as ligand binding in this region can accelerate or decelerate the conformational inactivation. Plasticity in this region may thus be mechanistically linked to the conformational change, possibly through facilitation of further unfolding of the hydrophobic core, as previously reported. This study provides a promising example of how computer simulations can help tether out mechanisms of serpin function and dysfunction at a spatial and temporal resolution that is far beyond the reach of any experiment.
- Journal Article