Publication details

Spontaneous binding of single-stranded RNAs to RRM proteins visualized by unbiased atomistic simulations with a rescaled RNA force field



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Nucleic Acids Research
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords protein/RNA complexes; RRM proteins; atomistic simulations
Description Recognition of single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) by RNA recognition motif (RRM) domains is an important class of protein–RNA interactions. Many such complexes were characterized using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and/or X-ray crystallography techniques, revealing ensemble-averaged pictures of the bound states. However, it is becoming widely accepted that better understanding of protein–RNA interactions would be obtained from ensemble descriptions. Indeed, earlier molecular dynamics simulations of bound states indicated visible dynamics at the RNA–RRM interfaces. Here, we report the first atomistic simulation study of spontaneous binding of short RNA sequences to RRM domains of HuR and SRSF1 proteins. Using a millisecond-scale aggregate ensemble of unbiased simulations, we were able to observe a few dozen binding events. HuR RRM3 utilizes a pre-binding state to navigate the RNA sequence to its partially disordered bound state and then to dynamically scan its different binding registers. SRSF1 RRM2 binding is more straightforward but still multiple-pathway. The present study necessitated development of a goal-specific force field modification, scaling down the intramolecular van der Waals interactions of the RNA which also improves description of the RNA–RRM bound state. Our study opens up a new avenue for large-scale atomistic investigations of binding landscapes of protein–RNA complexes, and future perspectives of such research are discussed.
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