Small GTPase Ran: Depicting the nucleotide-specific conformational landscape of the functionally important C-terminus

Janka Czigleczki, Pedro Tulio de Resende Lara, Balint Dudas, Hyunbum Jang, David Perahia, Ruth Nussinov, Erika Balog*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The small GTPase Ran is the main regulator of the nucleo-cytoplasmic import and export through the nuclear pore complex. It functions as a molecular switch cycling between the GDP-bound inactive and GTP-bound active state. It consists of a globular (G) domain and a C-terminal region, which is bound to the G-domain in the inactive, GDP-bound states. Crystal structures of the GTP-bound active form complexed with Ran binding proteins (RanBP) show that the C-terminus undergoes a large conformational change, embracing Ran binding domains (RanBD). Whereas in the crystal structures of macromolecular complexes not containing RanBDs the structure of the C-terminal segment remains unresolved, indicating its large conformational flexibility. This movement could not have been followed either by experimental or simulation methods. Here, starting from the crystal structure of Ran in both GDP- and GTP-bound forms we show how rigid the C-terminal region in the inactive structure is during molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Furthermore, we show how MD simulations of the active form are incapable of mapping the open conformations of the C-terminus. By using the MDeNM (Molecular Dynamics with excited Normal Modes) method, we were able to widely map the conformational surface of the C-terminus of Ran in the active GTP-bound form, which allows us to envisage how it can embrace RanBDs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1111574
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
StatePublished - 16 Jan 2023


  • C-terminus
  • Ran
  • aMDeNM
  • conformational search
  • conformational switch
  • molecular dynamics
  • normal modes
  • small GTPase


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