Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Vol.117, No.50, 16013-16028, 2013
Coarse-Grained Model for Colloidal Protein Interactions, B-22, and Protein Cluster Formation
Reversible protein cluster formation is an important initial step in the processes of native and non-native protein aggregation, but involves relatively long time and length scales for detailed atomistic simulations and extensive mapping of free energy landscapes. A coarse-grained (CG) model is presented to semiquantitatively characterize the thermodynamics and key configurations involved in the landscape for protein oligomerization, as well as experimental measures of interactions such as the osmotic second virial coefficient (B-22). Based on earlier work (Gruenberger et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 2013, 117, 763), this CG model treats proteins as rigid bodies composed of one bead per amino acid, with each amino acid having specific parameters for its size, hydrophobicity, and charge. The net interactions are a combination of steric repulsions, short-range attractions, and screened long-range charge charge interactions. Model parametrization was done by fitting simulation results against experimental value of B-22 as a function of solution ionic strength for alpha-chymotrypsinogen A and gamma D-Crystallin (gD-Crys). The CG model is applied to characterize the pairwise interactions and dimerization of gD-Crys and the dependence on temperature, protein concentration, and ionic strength. The results illustrate that at experimentally relevant conditions where stable dimers do not form, the entropic contributions are predominant in the free-energy of protein cluster formation and colloidal protein interactions, arguing against interpretations that treat B-22 primarily from energetic considerations alone. Additionally, the results suggest that electrostatic interactions help to modulate the population of the different stable configurations for protein nearest-neighbor pairs, while short-range attractions determine the relative orientations of proteins within these configurations. Finally, simulation results are combined with Principal Component Analysis to identify those amino-acids/surface patches that form interprotein contacts at conditions that favor dimerization of gD-Crys. The resulting regions agree with previously found aggregation-prone sites, as well as suggesting new ones that may be important.