Water network in the binding pocket of fluorinated BPTI-Trypsin complexes - insights from simulation and experiment
L. Wehrhan, J. Leppkes, N. Dimos, B. Loll, B. Koksch, B. G. Keller – 2022
Structural waters in the S1 binding pocket of β-trypsin are critical for the stabilization of the complex of β-trypsin with its inhibitor bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI). The inhibitor strength of BPTI can be modulated by replacing the critical lysine residue at the P1 position by non-natural amino acids. We study BPTI variants in which the critical Lys15 in BPTI has been replaced by α-aminobutyric acid (Abu) and its fluorinated derivatives monofluoroethylglycine (MfeGly), difluoroethylglycine (DfeGly) and trifluoroethylglycine (TfeGly). We investigate the hypothesis that additional water molecules in the binding pocket act can form specific non-covalent interactions to the fluorinated side-chains and thereby act as an extension of the inhibitors. We report potentials of mean force (PMF) of the unbinding process for all four complexes and enzyme activity inhibition assays. Additionally, we report the protein crystal structure of Lys15MfeGly-BPTI-β-trypsin complex (pdb: 7PH1). Both, experimental and computational data, show a step-wise increase in inhibitor strength with increasing fluorination of the Abu side chain. The PMF additionally shows a minimum for the encounter complex and an intermediate state just before the bound state. In the bound state, the computational analysis of the structure and dynamics of the water molecules in the S1 pocket shows a highly dynamic network of water molecules that does not indicate a rigidification or stabilizing trend in regards to energetic properties that could explain the increase in inhibitor strength. The analysis of the enthalpy and the entropy of the water molecules in the S1 binding pocket using Grid Inhomogeneous Solvation Theory confirms this result. Overall, fluorination systematically changes the binding affinity but the effect cannot be explained by a persistent water network in the binding pocket. Other effects, such as the hydrophobicity of fluorinated amino acids and the stability of the encounter complex as well as the additional minimum in the potential of mean force in the bound state, likely influence the affinity more directly.