Nina Singhal

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (5)23.8 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Membrane fusion constitutes a key stage in cellular processes such as synaptic neurotransmission and infection by enveloped viruses. Current experimental assays for fusion have thus far been unable to resolve early fusion events in fine structural detail. We have previously used molecular dynamics simulations to develop mechanistic models of fusion by small lipid vesicles. Here, we introduce a novel structural measurement of vesicle topology and fusion geometry: persistent voids. Persistent voids calculations enable systematic measurement of structural changes in vesicle fusion by assessing fusion stalk widths. They also constitute a generally applicable technique for assessing lipid topological change. We use persistent voids to compute dynamic relationships between hemifusion neck widening and formation of a full fusion pore in our simulation data. We predict that a tightly coordinated process of hemifusion neck expansion and pore formation is responsible for the rapid vesicle fusion mechanism, while isolated enlargement of the hemifusion diaphragm leads to the formation of a metastable hemifused intermediate. These findings suggest that rapid fusion between small vesicles proceeds via a small hemifusion diaphragm rather than a fully expanded one. Software available upon request pending public release. Supplementary data are available on Bioinformatics online.
    Bioinformatics 08/2007; 23(14):1753-9. · 4.62 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To meet the challenge of modeling the conformational dynamics of biological macromolecules over long time scales, much recent effort has been devoted to constructing stochastic kinetic models, often in the form of discrete-state Markov models, from short molecular dynamics simulations. To construct useful models that faithfully represent dynamics at the time scales of interest, it is necessary to decompose configuration space into a set of kinetically metastable states. Previous attempts to define these states have relied upon either prior knowledge of the slow degrees of freedom or on the application of conformational clustering techniques which assume that conformationally distinct clusters are also kinetically distinct. Here, we present a first version of an automatic algorithm for the discovery of kinetically metastable states that is generally applicable to solvated macromolecules. Given molecular dynamics trajectories initiated from a well-defined starting distribution, the algorithm discovers long lived, kinetically metastable states through successive iterations of partitioning and aggregating conformation space into kinetically related regions. The authors apply this method to three peptides in explicit solvent-terminally blocked alanine, the 21-residue helical F(s) peptide, and the engineered 12-residue beta-hairpin trpzip2-to assess its ability to generate physically meaningful states and faithful kinetic models.
    The Journal of Chemical Physics 05/2007; 126(15):155101. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lipid membrane fusion is critical to cellular transport and signaling processes such as constitutive secretion, neurotransmitter release, and infection by enveloped viruses. Here, we introduce a powerful computational methodology for simulating membrane fusion from a starting configuration designed to approximate activated prefusion assemblies from neuronal and viral fusion, producing results on a time scale and degree of mechanistic detail not previously possible to our knowledge. We use an approach to the long time scale simulation of fusion by constructing a Markovian state model with large-scale distributed computing, yielding an understanding of fusion mechanisms on time scales previously impossible to simulate to our knowledge. Our simulation data suggest a branched pathway for fusion, in which a common stalk-like intermediate can either rapidly form a fusion pore or remain in a metastable hemifused state that slowly forms fully fused vesicles. This branched reaction pathway provides a mechanistic explanation both for the biphasic fusion kinetics and the stable hemifused intermediates previously observed experimentally. Our distributed computing and Markovian state model approaches provide sufficient sampling to detect rare transitions, a systematic process for analyzing reaction pathways, and the ability to develop quantitative approximations of reaction kinetics for fusion.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2006; 103(32):11916-21. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Nina Singhal, Vijay S Pande
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    ABSTRACT: In previous work, we described a Markovian state model (MSM) for analyzing molecular-dynamics trajectories, which involved grouping conformations into states and estimating the transition probabilities between states. In this paper, we analyze the errors in this model caused by finite sampling. We give different methods with various approximations to determine the precision of the reported mean first passage times. These approximations are validated on an 87 state toy Markovian system. In addition, we propose an efficient and practical sampling algorithm that uses these error calculations to build a MSM that has the same precision in mean first passage time values but requires an order of magnitude fewer samples. We also show how these methods can be scaled to large systems using sparse matrix methods.
    The Journal of Chemical Physics 12/2005; 123(20):204909. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We propose an efficient method for the prediction of protein folding rate constants and mechanisms. We use molecular dynamics simulation data to build Markovian state models (MSMs), discrete representations of the pathways sampled. Using these MSMs, we can quickly calculate the folding probability (P(fold)) and mean first passage time of all the sampled points. In addition, we provide techniques for evaluating these values under perturbed conditions without expensive recomputations. To demonstrate this method on a challenging system, we apply these techniques to a two-dimensional model energy landscape and the folding of a tryptophan zipper beta hairpin.
    The Journal of Chemical Physics 08/2004; 121(1):415-25. · 3.12 Impact Factor