The binding properties of the H5N1 influenza virus neuraminidase as inferred from molecular modeling

J Mol Model. 2011 Jun;17(6):1445-56. doi: 10.1007/s00894-010-0852-z. Epub 2010 Sep 19.


The avian influenza H5N1 virus has emerged as an important pathogen, causing severe disease in humans and posing a pandemic threat. Substrate specificity is crucial for the virus to obtain the ability to spread from avian to human. Therefore, an investigation of the binding properties of ligands at the molecular level is important for understanding the catalytic mechanism of the avian influenza virus neuraminidase and for designing novel and specific inhibitors of H5N1 neuraminidase. Based on the available crystal structure of H5N1, we have characterized the binding properties between sialic acid, methyl 3'sialyllactoside, methyl 6'sialyllactoside and the H5N1 influenza virus neuraminidase using molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulations. Obtained molecular dynamics trajectories were analyzed in terms of ligand conformations, N1-ligand interactions, and in terms of loop flexibility. It was found that in the N1-SA complex the sialic acid ring undergoes a transition from the B(2,5) to the (2)C(5) conformation. However, in the N1-3SL and N1-6SL complexes sialic acid remained in the distorted boat conformation. The obtained results indicate that 3SL has only weak interactions with the 150-loop, whereas the N1-6SL complex shows strong interactions. Most of the differences arise from the various conformations around the glycosidic linkage, between the sialic acid and galactose, which facilitate the above interactions of 6SL with the enzyme, and as a consequence the interactions between the 150- and 430- loops. This finding suggests that the altered flexibility of loops in and around the active site is one of the reasons why the avian N1 preferentially cleaves sialic acid from α-(2-3)-Gal glycoconjugates over α-(2-6)-Gal. These molecular modeling results are consistent with available experimental results on the specificity of N1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / enzymology*
  • Influenza, Human / drug therapy
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / chemistry
  • Neuraminidase / chemistry*
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry
  • Protein Conformation
  • Surface Properties
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry*


  • Ligands
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Viral Proteins
  • sialooligosaccharides
  • Neuraminidase
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid