Triggering loops and enzyme function: Identification of loops that trigger and modulate movements

K. Gunasekaran, Buyong Ma, Ruth Nussinov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enzyme function often involves a conformational change. There is a general agreement that loops play a vital role in correctly positioning the catalytically important residues. Nevertheless, predicting the functional loops and most importantly their role in enzyme function remains a difficult task. A major reason for this difficulty is that loops that undergo conformational change are frequently not well conserved in their primary sequence. β1,4-Galactosyltransferase is one such enzyme. There, the amino acid sequence of a long loop that undergoes a large conformational change upon substrate binding is not well conserved. Our molecular dynamics simulations show that the large conformational change in the long loop is brought about by a second, interacting loop. Interestingly, while the structural change of the second loop is much smaller than that of the long loop, its sequence (particularly glycine residues) is highly conserved. We further examine the generality of the proposition that there are loops that trigger movements but nevertheless show little or no structural changes in crystals. We focus on two other enzymes, enolase and lipase. We chose these enzymes, since they too undergo conformational change upon ligand binding, however, they have different folds and different functions. Through multiple sets of simulations we show that the conformational change of the functional loop(s) is brought about through communication of flexibility by triggering loops that have several glycine residues. We further propose that similar to the conservation of common favorable fold types and structural motifs, evolution has also conserved common "skillful" mechanisms. Mechanisms may be conserved across different folds, sequences and functions, with adaptation to specific enzymatic roles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-159
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 5 Sep 2003


  • Conformational change
  • Ligand-binding mechanism
  • Molecular dynamics simulation
  • Protein flexibility
  • Triggering loops


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