Exploring the Molecular Dynamics of Proteins and Viruses
Sammanfattning: Knowledge about structure and dynamics of the important biological macromolecules — proteins, nucleic acids, lipids and sugars — helps to understand their function. Atomic-resolution structures of macromolecules are routinely captured with X-ray crystallography and other techniques. In this thesis, simulations are used to explore the dynamics of the molecules beyond the static structures.Viruses are machines constructed from macromolecules. Crystal structures of them reveal little to no information about their genomes. In simulations of empty capsids, we observed a correlation between the spatial distribution of chloride ions in the solution and the position of RNA in crystals of satellite tobacco necrosis virus (STNV) and satellite tobacco mosaic virus (STMV). In this manner, structural features of the non-symmetric RNA could also be inferred.The capsid of STNV binds calcium ions on the icosahedral symmetry axes. The release of these ions controls the activation of the virus particle upon infection. Our simulations reproduced the swelling of the capsid upon removal of the ions and we quantified the water permeability of the capsid. The structure and dynamics of the expanded capsid suggest that the disassembly is initiated at the 3-fold symmetry axis.Several experimental methods require biomolecular samples to be injected into vacuum, such as mass-spectrometry and diffractive imaging of single particles. It is therefore important to understand how proteins and molecule-complexes respond to being aerosolized. In simulations we mimicked the dehydration process upon going from solution into the gas phase. We find that two important factors for structural stability of proteins are the temperature and the level of residual hydration. The simulations support experimental claims that membrane proteins can be protected by a lipid micelle and that a non-membrane protein could be stabilized in a reverse micelle in the gas phase. A water-layer around virus particles would impede the signal in diffractive experiments, but our calculations estimate that it should be possible to determine the orientation of the particle in individual images, which is a prerequisite for three-dimensional reconstruction.
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