Ligand Release Pathways Obtained with WExplore: Residence Times and Mechanisms

  • May 30, 2016
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"Ligand Release Pathways Obtained with WExplore: Residence Times and Mechanisms"

Alex Dickson & Samuel D Lotz

J. Phys. Chem., Volume 120, Issue 24, pp 5377–5385, 27 May 2016

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.6b04012



The binding of ligands with their molecular receptors is of tremendous importance in biology. Although much emphasis has been placed on characterizing binding sites and bound poses that determine the binding thermodynamics, the pathway by which a ligand binds importantly determines the binding kinetics. The computational study of entire unbiased ligand binding and release pathways is still an emerging field, made possible only recently by advances in computational hardware and sampling methodologies. We have developed one such method (WExplore) that is based on a weighted ensemble of trajectories, which we apply to ligand release for the first time, using a set of three previously characterized interactions between low-affinity ligands and the protein FKBP-12 (FK-506 binding protein). WExplore is found to be more efficient that conventional sampling, even for the nanosecond-scale unbinding events observed here. From a nonequilibrium ensemble of unbinding trajectories we obtain ligand residence times and release pathways without using biasing forces or a Markovian assumption of transitions between regions. We introduce a set of analysis tools for unbinding transition pathways, including using von Mises-Fisher distributions to model clouds of ligand exit points, that provide a quantitative proxy for ligand surface diffusion. Differences between the transition pathway ensembles of the three ligands are identified and discussed.