Understanding antibody-antigen associations by molecular dynamics simulations: detection of important intra- and inter-molecular salt bridges

Cell Biochem Biophys. 2007;47(3):361-75. doi: 10.1007/s12013-007-0031-8.


1 NSec molecular dynamics (MD) simulation of anti-hen egg white antibody, HyHEL63 (HH63), complexed with HEL reveals important molecular interactions, not revealed in its X-ray crystal structure. These molecular interactions were predicted to be critical for the complex formation, based on structure-function studies of this complex and 3-other anti-HEL antibodies, HH8, HH10 and HH26, HEL complexes. All four antibodies belong to the same structural family, referred to here as HH10 family. Ala scanning results show that they recognize 'coincident epitopes'. 1 NSec explicit, with periodic boundary condition, MD simulation of HH63- HEL reveals the presence of functionally important saltbridges. Around 200 ps in vacuo and an additional 20 ps explicit simulation agree with the observations from 1 Nsec simulation. Intra-molecular salt-bridges predicted to play significant roles in the complex formation, were revealed during MD simulation. A very stabilizing saltbridge network, and another intra-molecular salt-bridge, at the binding site of HEL, revealed during the MD simulation, is proposed to predipose binding site geometry for specific binding. All the revealed saltbridges are present in one or more of the other three complexes and/or involve \"hot-spot\" epitope and paratope residues. Most of these charged epitope residues make large contribution to the binding free energy. The "hot spot" epitope residue Lys97Y, which significantly contributes to the free energy of binding in all the complexes, forms an intermolecular salt-bridge in several MD conformers. Our earlier computations have shown that this inter-molecular salt-bridge plays a significant role in determining specificity and flexibility of binding in the HH8-HEL and HH26-HEL complexes. Using a robust criterion of salt-bridge detection, this intermolecular salt-bridge was detected in the native structures of the HH8-HEL and HH26-HEL complexes, but was not revealed in the crystal structure of HH63-HEL complex. The electrostatic strength of this revealed saltbridge was very strong. During 1 Nsec MD simulation this salt-bridge networks with another inter-molecular salt-bridge to form an inter-molecular salt-bridge triad. Participation of Lys97Y in the formation of inter-molecular triad further validates the functional importance of Lys97Y in HH63-HEL associations. These results demonstrate that many important structural details of biomolecular interactions can be better understood when studied in a dynamic environment, and that MD simulations can complement and expand information obtained from static X-ray structure. This study also highlights "hot-spot" molecular interactions in HyHEL63-HEL complex.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / chemistry*
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / chemistry*
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • Antigens / chemistry*
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Binding Sites
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Binding
  • Salts / chemistry*


  • Antibodies
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Antigens
  • Salts