Mechanistic Differences of Activation of Rac1P29Sand Rac1A159V

Simge Senyuz, Hyunbum Jang, Ruth Nussinov, Ozlem Keskin, Attila Gursoy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rac1 is a small GTPase that plays key roles in actin reorganization, cell motility, and cell survival/growth as well as in various cancer types and neurodegenerative diseases. Similar to other Ras superfamily GTPases, Rac1 switches between active GTP-bound and inactive GDP-bound states. Switch I and II regions open and close during GDP/GTP exchange. P29S and A159V (paralogous to K-RasA146) mutations are the two most common somatic mutations of Rac1. Rac1P29S is a known hotspot for melanoma, whereas Rac1A159V most commonly occurs in head and neck cancer. To investigate how these substitutions induce the Rac1 dynamics, we used atomistic molecular dynamics simulations on the wild-type Rac1 and two mutant systems (P29S and A159V) in the GTP bound state, and on the wild-type Rac1 and P29S mutated system in the GDP bound state. Here, we show that P29S and A159V mutations activate Rac1 with different mechanisms. In Rac1P29S-GTP, the substitution increases the flexibility of Switch I based on RMSF and dihedral angle calculations and leads to an open conformation. We propose that the open Switch I conformation is one of the underlying reasons for rapid GDP/GTP exchange of Rac1P29S. On the other hand, in Rac1A159V-GTP, some of the contacts of the guanosine ring of GTP with Rac1 are temporarily lost, enabling the guanosine ring to move toward Switch I and subsequently close the switch. Rac1A159V-GTP adopts a Ras state 2 like conformation, where both switch regions are in closed conformation and Thr35 forms a hydrogen bond with the nucleotide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3790-3802
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number15
StatePublished - 22 Apr 2021


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