Computational Investigation of Intracellular Signalling Cascades from G-Protein-Coupled Receptors to Adenylyl Cyclase

In order to adjust to changes in the environment, cells can communicate via signalling cascades. A common pathway for intercellular communication is the G-protein-coupled- receptor (GPCR) signal transduction cascade which is triggered by a (chemical or physical) extracellular signal, such as light or small molecules. This external interaction induces conformational changes that can lead either to GPCR activation or deactivation. In the active form, GPCRs can induce the activation of trimeric G proteins, which results in the dissociation of the Galpha from the beta and gamma subunits. Subsequently, active Galpha can interact with other cytosolic proteins, such as adenylyl cyclase (AC), which converts adenosine triphosphate to cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) upon stimulation. AC activation can be induced via stimulatory Galpha subunit (Galpha_s) interactions, while inhibition is related to inhibitory Galpha (Galpha_i) association. X-ray crystallography is crucial for the computational study of the GPCR signal transduction pathway. However, sometimes important molecules or moieties can become lost or cannot be incorporated during crystallisation procedures, which can have a significant effect on a protein’s conformation and function. In this thesis, three steps in the GPCR signal transduction cascade have been studied, rhodopsin activation (i), the conformation of active Galpha_i (ii) and the interaction between Galpha_i and AC (iii). In all three cases some groups or molecules that are absent in the X-ray structures play a vital role in the function of the proteins. In the first project, rhodopsin’s early intermediates after photon exposure are investigated together with a deprotonation reaction that takes place in the later stages of the activation pathway. The classical molecular dynamics (MD) and mixed quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics MD results suggest that photon exposure induces active site rearrangements which increase the stability of rhodopsin’s deprotonated Schiff base state. A bridging water molecule in the active site that is absent in the X-ray structure appears to play an important role during the deprotonation mechanism, which demonstrates the dependence of the protein’s function on its environment. The second study investigates the conformation of the active soluble form of Galpha_i, which has not yet been fully resolved via experimental studies due to crystallisation difficulties of the lipidated N-terminus. To investigate the effect of lipidation via classical MD simulations, a model of soluble lipid-bound Galpha_i was constructed. The simulations show that Galpha_i can form a hydrophobic pocket for the lipid on the protein surface. Other regions of the protein, important for protein-protein interaction, are adjusted as well. Hence, the post-translational modification appears to have a significant impact on Galpha_i’s active conformation and function, which was not captured via the unlipidated X-ray structures. The last project is devoted to a complex of active soluble Galpha_i and AC (Galpha_i :AC). While the interaction site for Galpha_s on AC is known, the interaction site for Galpha_i has not yet been identified. Classical MD simulations were performed on a docked Galpha_i:AC complex to understand the inhibition mechanisms as well as the differentiation between AC stimulation/inhibition. The results show that Galpha_i binding not only leads to AC inhibition via impeding ATP binding but also by preventing re-activation via Galpha_s through closure of the subunit’s interaction site on AC. Keywords: GPCR signal transduction pathway, G-protein-coupled recepter, rhodopsin, G protein, complex formation, cis-trans isomerisation, adenylyl cyclase.

Röthlisberger, Ursula
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis7563-7

 Record created 2017-02-07, last modified 2018-03-17

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