Modeling the Structure of Agitoxin in Complex With the Shaker K+ Channel: A Computational Approach Based on Experimental Distance Restraints Extracted From Thermodynamic Mutant Cycles

Biophys J. 2002 Nov;83(5):2595-609. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(02)75270-3.


Computational methods are used to determine the three-dimensional structure of the Agitoxin (AgTx2)-Shaker complex. In a first stage, a large number of models of the complex are generated using high temperature molecular dynamics, accounting for side chain flexibility with distance restraints deduced from thermodynamic analysis of double mutant cycles. Four plausible binding mode candidates are found using this procedure. In a second stage, the quality and validity of the resulting complexes is assessed by examining the stability of the binding modes during molecular dynamics simulations with explicit water molecules and by calculating the binding free energies of mutant proteins using a continuum solvent representation and comparing with experimental data. The docking protocol and the continuum solvent model are validated using the Barstar-Barnase and the lysozyme-antibody D1.2 complexes, for which there are high-resolution structures as well as double mutant data. This combination of computational methods permits the identification of two possible structural models of AgTx2 in complex with the Shaker K+ channel, additional structural analysis providing further evidence in favor of a single model. In this final complex, the toxin is bound to the extracellular entrance of the channel along the pore axis via a combination of hydrophobic, hydrogen bonding, and electrostatic interactions. The magnitude of the buried solvent accessible area corresponding to the protein-protein contact is on the order of 1000 A with roughly similar contributions from each of the four subunits. Some side chains of the toxin adopt different conformation than in the experimental solution structure, indicating the importance of an induced-fit upon the formation of the complex. In particular, the side chain of Lys-27, a residue highly conserved among scorpion toxins, points deep into the pore with its positively charge amino group positioned at the outer binding site for K+. Specific site-directed mutagenesis experiments are suggested to verify and confirm the structure of the toxin-channel complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Computer Simulation
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Ions
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Potassium Channels / chemistry*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Scorpion Venoms / chemistry*
  • Scorpion Venoms / metabolism
  • Scorpions
  • Shaker Superfamily of Potassium Channels
  • Streptomyces / metabolism
  • Thermodynamics
  • Water / chemistry


  • Ions
  • Peptides
  • Potassium Channels
  • Scorpion Venoms
  • Shaker Superfamily of Potassium Channels
  • Water
  • agitoxin 2