Molecular dynamics simulation of the RNA complex of a double-stranded RNA-binding domain reveals dynamic features of the intermolecular interface and its hydration

Biophys J. 2002 Dec;83(6):3542-52. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(02)75354-X.


The interaction between double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and the third double-stranded domain (dsRBD) from Drosophila Staufen protein represents a paradigm to understand how the dsRBD protein family, one of the most common RNA-binding protein units, binds dsRNA. The nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) structure of this complex and the x-ray structure of another family member revealed the stereochemical basis for recognition, but also raised new questions. Although the crystallographic studies revealed a highly ordered interface containing numerous water-mediated contacts, NMR suggested extensive residual motion at the interface. To address how interfacial motion contributes to molecular recognition in the dsRBD-dsRNA system, we conducted a 2-ns molecular dynamics simulation of the complex derived from Staufen protein and of the separate protein and RNA components. The results support the observation that a high degree of conformational flexibility is retained upon complex formation and that this involves interfacial residues that are critical for dsRBD-dsRNA binding. The structural origin of this residual flexibility is revealed by the analysis of the trajectory of motion. Individual basic side chains switch continuously from one RNA polar group to another with a residence time seldom exceeding 100 ps, while retaining favorable interaction with RNA throughout much of the simulation. Short-lived water molecules mediate some of these interactions for a large fraction of the trajectory studied here. This result indicates that water molecules are not statically associated with the interface, but continuously exchange with the bulk solvent on a 1-10-ps time scale. This work provides new insight into dsRBD-dsRNA recognition and builds upon a growing body of evidence, suggesting that short-lived dynamic interactions play important roles in protein-nucleic acid interactions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Computer Simulation
  • Drosophila Proteins / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Motion
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / chemistry*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry*
  • Surface Properties
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Water
  • stau protein, Drosophila