Molecular Dynamics Investigations of Structural Conversions in Transformer Proteins Dissertation

(2017). Molecular Dynamics Investigations of Structural Conversions in Transformer Proteins . 10.25148/etd.FIDC001746

thesis or dissertation chair


  • GC, Jeevan


  • Multifunctional proteins that undergo major structural changes to perform different functions are known as “Transformer Proteins”, which is a recently identified class of proteins. One such protein that shows a remarkable structural plasticity and has two distinct functions is the transcription antiterminator, RfaH. Depending on the interactions between its N-terminal domain and its C-terminal domain, the RfaH CTD exists as either an all-α-helix bundle or all-β-barrel structure. Another example of a transformer protein is the Ebola virus protein VP40 (eVP40), which exists in different conformations and oligomeric states (dimer, hexamer, and octamer), depending on the required function.I performed Molecular Dynamics (MD) computations to investigate the structural conversion of RfaH-CTD from its all-a to all-b form. I used various structural and statistical mechanics tools to identify important residues involved in controlling the conformational changes. In the full-length RfaH, the interdomain interactions were found to present the major barrier in the structural conversion of RfaH-CTD from all-a to all-b form. I mapped the energy landscape for the conformational changes by calculating the potential of mean force using the Adaptive Biasing Force and Jarzynski Equality methods. Similarly, the interdomain salt-bridges in the eVP40 protomer were found to play a critical role in domain association and plasma membrane (PM) assembly. This molecular dynamic simulation study is supported by virus like particle budding assays investigated by using live cell imaging that highlighted the important role of these saltbridges. I also investigated the plasma membrane association of the eVP40 dimer in various PM compositions and found that the eVP40 dimer readily associates with the PM containing POPS and PIP2 lipids. Also, the CTD helices were observed to be important in stabilizing the dimer-membrane complex. Coarse-grained MD simulations of the eVP40 hexamer and PM system revealed that the hexamer enhances the PIP2 lipid clustering at the lower leaflet of the PM. These results provide insight on the critical steps in the Ebola virus life cycle.

publication date

  • March 22, 2017


  • Ebola Virus Protein VP40
  • Jarzynski Equality
  • Molecular Dynamics simulation
  • RfaH
  • Transfer Entropy
  • Transformer Proteins

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)