ABSTRACT: The nudged elastic band (NEB) technique has been implemented in AMBER to calculate low-energy paths for conformational changes. A novel simulated annealing protocol that does not require an initial hypothesis for the path is used to sample low-energy paths. This was used to study the conformational change of an RNA cis Watson-Crick/Hoogsteen GG non-canonical pair, with one G syn around the glycosidic bond and the other anti. A previous solution structure, determined by NMR-constrained modeling, demonstrated that the GG pairs change from (syn)G-(anti)G to (anti)G-(syn)G in the context of duplex r(GCAGGCGUGC) on the millisecond timescale. The set of low-energy paths found by NEB show that each G flips independently around the glycosidic bond, with the anti G flipping to syn first. Guanine bases flip without opening adjacent base-pairs by protruding into the major groove, accommodated by a transient change by the ribose to C2'-exo sugar pucker. Hydrogen bonds between bases and the backbone, which lower the energetic barrier to flipping, are observed along the path. The results show the plasticity of RNA base-pairs in helices, which is important for biological processes, including mismatch repair, protein recognition, and translation. The modeling of the GG conformational change also demonstrates that NEB can be used to discover non-trivial paths for macromolecules and therefore NEB can be used as an exploratory method for predicting putative conformational change paths.
Journal of Molecular Biology 05/2006; 357(5):1683-93. · 4.00 Impact Factor