Substrate-induced conformational changes and dynamics of UDP-N-acetylgalactosamine:polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase-2

J Mol Biol. 2007 Oct 19;373(2):439-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.08.028. Epub 2007 Aug 21.


O-Glycan biosynthesis is initiated by the transfer of N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) from a nucleotide sugar donor (UDP-GalNAc) to Ser/Thr residues of an acceptor substrate. The detailed transfer mechanism, catalyzed by the UDP-GalNAc polypeptide:N-acetyl-alpha-galactosaminyltransferases (ppGalNAcTs), remains unclear despite structural information available for several isoforms in complex with substrates at various stages along the catalytic pathway. We used all-atom molecular dynamics simulations with explicit solvent and counterions to study the conformational dynamics of ppGalNAcT-2 in several enzymatic states along the catalytic pathway. ppGalNAcT-2 is simulated both in the presence and in the absence of substrates and reaction products to examine the role of conformational changes in ligand binding. In multiple 40-ns-long simulations of more than 600 ns total run time, we studied systems ranging from 45,000 to 95,000 atoms. Our simulations accurately identified dynamically active regions of the protein, as previously revealed by the X-ray structures, and permitted a detailed, atomistic description of the conformational changes of loops near the active site and the characterization of the ensemble of structures adopted by the transferase complex on the transition pathway between the ligand-bound and ligand-free states. In particular, the conformational transition of a functional loop adjacent to the active site from closed (active) to open (inactive) is correlated with the rotameric state of the conserved residue W331. Analysis of water dynamics in the active site revealed that internal water molecules have an important role in enhancing the enzyme flexibility. We also found evidence that charged side chains in the active site rearrange during site opening to facilitate ligand binding. Our results are consistent with the single-displacement transfer mechanism previously proposed for ppGalNAcTs based on X-ray structures and mutagenesis data and provide new evidence for possible functional roles of certain amino acids conserved across several isoforms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Manganese / chemistry
  • Manganese / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases / chemistry*
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylgalactosamine / chemistry*
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylgalactosamine / metabolism
  • Water / chemistry
  • Water / metabolism


  • Ligands
  • Water
  • Manganese
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylgalactosamine
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases