Recent Publications

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  1. Title: The Role of Arg228 in the phosphorylation of galactokinase: The mechanism of GHMP kinases by QM/MM studies

    Author(s): Huang M., Li X., Zou J.W., Timson D.J.

    Biochemistry, 52, pp. 4858-4868 (2013)

    doi: 10.1021/bi400228e

    HMP kinases are a group of structurally related small molecule kinases. They have been found in all kingdoms of life and are mostly responsible for catalyzing the ATP-dependent phosphorylation of intermediary metabolites. Although the GHMP kinases are of clinical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological importance, the mechanism of GHMP kinases is controversial. A catalytic base mechanism was suggested for mevalonate kinase that has a structural feature of the γ-phosphate of ATP close to an aspartate residue; however, for one GHMP family member, homoserine kinase, where the residue acting as general base is absent, a direct phosphorylation mechanism was suggested. Furthermore, it was proposed by some authors that all the GHMP kinases function by a similar mechanism. This controversy in mechanism has limited our ability to exploit these enzymes as drug targets and in biotechnology. Here the phosphorylation reaction mechanism of the human galactokinase, a member of the GHMP kinase family, was investigated using molecular dynamics simulations and density functional theory-based quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculations (B3LYP-D/AMBER99). The reaction coordinates were localized by potential energy scan using an adiabatic mapping method. Our results indicate that a highly conserved Glu174 captures Arg105 in the proximity of the α-phosphate of ATP, forming a H-bond network; therefore, the mobility of ATP in the large oxyanion hole is restricted. Arg228 functions to stabilize the negative charge developed at the β,γ-bridging oxygen of the ATP during bond cleavage. The reaction occurs via a direct phosphorylation mechanism, and the Asp186 in the proximity of ATP does not directly participate in the reaction pathway. Because Arg228 is not conserved among GHMP kinases, reagents which form interactions with Arg228, and therefore can interrupt its function in phosphorylation, may be developed into potential selective inhibitors for galactokinase.

  2. Title: Computational Identification of Self-inhibitory Peptides from Envelope Proteins

    Author(s): Xu Y., Rahman N.A.B.D., Othman R., Hu P., Huang M.

    Proteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics, 80, pp. 2154- (2012)

    doi: 10.1002/prot.24105

    Fusion process is known to be the initial step of viral infection and hence targeting the entry process is a promising strategy to design antiviral therapy. The self-inhibitory peptides derived from the enveloped (E) proteins function to inhibit the protein–protein interactions in the membrane fusion step mediated by the viral E protein. Thus, they have the potential to be developed into effective antiviral therapy. Herein, we have developed a Monte Carlo-based computational method with the aim to identify and optimize potential peptide hits from the E proteins. The stability of the peptides, which indicates their potential to bind in situ to the E proteins, was evaluated by two different scoring functions, dipolar distance-scaled, finite, ideal-gas reference state and residue-specific all-atom probability discriminatory function. The method was applied to α-helical Class I HIV-1 gp41, β-sheet Class II Dengue virus (DENV) type 2 E proteins, as well as Class III Herpes Simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) glycoprotein, a E protein with a mixture of α-helix and β-sheet structural fold. The peptide hits identified are in line with the druggable regions where the self-inhibitory peptide inhibitors for the three classes of viral fusion proteins were derived. Several novel peptides were identified from either the hydrophobic regions or the functionally important regions on Class II DENV-2 E protein and Class III HSV-1 gB. They have potential to disrupt the protein–protein interaction in the fusion process and may serve as starting points for the development of novel inhibitors for viral E proteins.

  3. Title: Binding modes of diketo-acid inhibitors of HIV-1 integrase: A comparative molecular dynamics simulation study

    Author(s): Huang M., Grant G.H., Richards W.G.

    Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling, 29, No. 1, pp. 956- (JUN 2011)

    doi: 10.1016/j.jmgm.2011.04.002

    HIV-1 integrase (IN) has become an attractive target since drug resistance against HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) and protease (PR) has appeared. Diketo acid (DKA) inhibitors are potent and selective inhibitors of HIV-1 IN: however the action mechanism is not well understood. Here, to study the inhibition mechanism of DKAs we performed 10 ns comparative molecular dynamics simulations on HIV-1 IN bound with three most representative DKA inhibitors: Shionogi inhibitor, S-1360 and two Merck inhibitors L-731,988 and L-708,906. Our simulations show that the acidic part of S-1360 formed salt bridge and cation–π interactions with Lys159. In addition, the catalytic Glu152 in S-1360 was pushed away from the active site to form an ion–pair interaction with Arg199. The Merck inhibitors can maintain either one or both of these ion–pair interaction features. The difference in potencies of the DKA inhibitors is thus attributed to the different binding modes at the catalytic site. Such structural information at atomic level, not only demonstrates the action modes of DKA inhibitors but also provides a novel starting point for structural-based design of HIV-1 IN inhibitors.