The Free Energy Profile of Tubulin Straight-Bent Conformational Changes, with Implications for Microtubule Assembly and Drug Discovery
PLoS Computational Biology
ab-tubulin dimers need to convert between a 'bent' conformation observed for free dimers in solution and a 'straight' conformation required for incorporation into the microtubule lattice. Here, we investigate the free energy landscape of abtubulin using molecular dynamics simulations, emphasizing implications for models of assembly, and modulation of the conformational landscape by colchicine, a tubulin-binding drug that inhibits microtubule polymerization. Specifically, we performed molecular
... ynamics, potential-of-mean force simulations to obtain the free energy profile for unpolymerized GDP-bound tubulin as a function of the ,12u intradimer rotation differentiating the straight and bent conformers. Our results predict that the unassembled GDP-tubulin heterodimer exists in a continuum of conformations ranging between straight and bent, but, in agreement with existing structural data, suggests that an intermediate bent state has a lower free energy (by ,1 kcal/mol) and thus dominates in solution. In agreement with predictions of the lattice model of microtubule assembly, lateral binding of two ab-tubulins strongly shifts the conformational equilibrium towards the straight state, which is then ,1 kcal/mol lower in free energy than the bent state. Finally, calculations of colchicine binding to a single ab-tubulin dimer strongly shifts the equilibrium toward the bent states, and disfavors the straight state to the extent that it is no longer thermodynamically populated.