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Title: Computational studies of ligand-water mediated interactions in ionotropic glutamate receptors
Author: Sahai, Michelle Asha
ISNI:       0000 0004 2709 3999
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Careful treatment of water molecules in ligand-protein interactions is required in many cases if the correct binding pose is to be identified for molecular docking. Water can form complex bridging networks and can play a critical role in dictating the binding mode of ligands. A particularly striking example of this can be found in the ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs), a family of ligand gated ion channels that are responsible for a majority of the fast synaptic neurotransmission in the central nervous system that are thought to be essential in memory and learning. Thus, pharmacological intervention at these neuronal receptors is a valuable therapeutic strategy. This thesis relies on various computational studies and X-ray crystallography to investigate the role of ligand-water mediated interactions in iGluRs bound to glutamate and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4- isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA). Comparative molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of each subtype of iGluRs bound to glutamate revealed that crystal water positions were reproduced and that all but one water molecule, W5, in the binding site can be rearranged or replaced with water molecules from the bulk. Further density functional theory calculations (DFT) have been used to confirm the MD results and characterize the energetics of W5 and another water molecule implicated in influencing the dynamics of a proposed switch in these receptors. Additional comparative studies on the AMPA subtypes of iGluRs show that each step of the calculation must be considered carefully if the results are to be meaningful. Crystal structures of two ligands, glutamate and AMPA revealed two distinct modes of binding when bound to an AMPA subtype of iGluRs, GluA2. The difference is related to the position of water molecules within the binding pocket. DFT calculations investigated the interaction energies and polarisation effects resulting in a prediction of the correct binding mode for glutamate. For AMPA alternative modes of binding have similar interaction energies as a result of a higher internal energy than glutamate. A combined MD and X-ray crystallographic study investigated the binding of the ligand AMPA in the AMPA receptor subtypes. Analysis of the binding pocket show that AMPA is not preserved in the crystal bound mode and can instead adopt an alternative mode of binding. This involves a displacement of a key water molecule followed by AMPA adopting the pose seen by glutamate. Thus, this thesis makes use of various studies to assess the energetics and dynamics of water molecules in iGluRs. The resulting data provides additional information on the importance of water molecules in mediating ligand interactions as well as identifying key water molecules that can be useful in the de novo design of new selective drugs against iGluRs.
Supervisor: Biggin, Philip C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biochemistry ; Computational biochemistry ; Molecular biophysics (biochemistry) ; Biophysical chemistry ; Biophysics ; Crystallography ; Membrane proteins ; Physical & theoretical chemistry ; Structural chemistry ; Theoretical chemistry ; Ionotropic glutamate receptor ; computational ; ab initio ; drug-design ; Density Functional Theory ; X-ray crystallography ; ligand binding ; conserved waters