Molecular dynamics of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase indicates increased flexibility upon DNA binding

Proteins. 2001 Nov 15;45(3):176-82. doi: 10.1002/prot.1137.


HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) is one of the main targets for drugs used in the treatment of AIDS, among them, the non-nucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTIs). The flexibility of RT unliganded and complexed to double-stranded DNA (RT/dsDNA), in water, has been studied by means of molecular dynamics. The simulations show that RT flexibility depends on its ligation state. The RT/dsDNA trajectories show larger fluctuations in the atomic positions than uncomplexed RT, particularly at the tips of the p66 fingers and thumb subdomains. This increased flexibility is consistent with the ability of the p66 fingers of the RT/dsDNA complex to close down after the binding of a deoxynucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) molecule, as observed in the crystal structures of RT/dsDNA bound to dNTP. The two complexation states present different patterns of concerted motions, indicating that the bound dsDNA alters RT flexibility. The motions of amino acid residues that form the non-nucleoside RT inhibitor binding pocket upon complexation with a NNRTI are anticorrelated with the p66 fingers (in RT/dsDNA) and correlated to the RNase H subdomain (unliganded RT). These concerted motions indicate that binding of a NNRTI could alter the flexibility of the subdomains whose motions are correlated to those of the binding pocket.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Crystallography, X-Ray / methods
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Databases, Protein
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase / chemistry*
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Peptide Mapping / methods
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Thermodynamics
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase