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Title: Computational studies of signalling at the cell membrane
Author: Lumb, Craig Nicholas
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 3303
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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In order to associate with the cytoplasmic leaflet of the plasma membrane, many cytosolic signalling proteins possess a distinct lipid binding domain as part of their overall fold. Here, a multiscale simulation approach has been used to investigate three membrane-binding proteins involved in cellular processes such as growth and proliferation. The pleckstrin homology (PH) domain from the general receptor for phosphoinositides 1 (GRP1-PH) binds phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PI(3,4,5)P₃) with high affinity and specificity. To investigate how this peripheral protein is able to locate its target lipid in the complex membrane environment, Brownian dynamics (BD) simulations were employed to explore association pathways for GRP1-PH binding to PI(3,4,5)P₃ embedded in membranes with different surface charge densities and distributions. The results indicated that non-PI(3,4,5)P₃ lipids can act as decoys to disrupt PI(3,4,5)P₃ binding, but that at approximately physiological anionic lipid concentrations steering towards PI(3,4,5)P₃ is actually enhanced. Atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations revealed substantial membrane penetration of membrane-bound GRP1-PH, evident when non-equilibrium, steered MD simulations were used to forcibly dissociate the protein from the membrane surface. Atomistic and coarse grained (CG) MD simulations of the phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome ten (PTEN) tumour suppressor, which also binds PI(3,4,5)P₃, detected numerous non-specific protein-lipid contacts and anionic lipid clustering around PTEN that can be modulated by selective in silico mutagenesis. These results suggested a dual recognition model of membrane binding, with non-specific membrane interactions complementing the protein-ligand interaction. Molecular docking and MD simulations were used to characterise the lipid binding properties of kindlin-1 PH. Simulations demonstrated that a dynamic salt bridge was responsible for controlling the accessibility of the binding site. Electrostatics calculations applied to a variety of PH domains suggested that their molecular dipole moments are typically aligned with their ligand binding sites, which has implications for steering and ligand electrostatic funnelling.
Supervisor: Sansom, Mark S. P. Sponsor: Medical Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Life Sciences ; Biochemistry ; Computational biochemistry ; Molecular biophysics (biochemistry) ; Pleckstrin homology domains ; molecular dynamics simulations ; Brownian dynamics simulations ; inositol phosphates ; phosphoinositides ; cell signalling ; membrane-binding proteins ; PTEN tumour suppressor