The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a major target for drugs in treating lung carcinoma as it promotes cell growth and tumor progression. Structural studies have demonstrated that EGFR exists in an equilibrium between catalytically active and inactive forms, and dramatic conformational transitions occur during its activation. It is known that EGFR mutations promote such conformational changes that affect its activation and drug efficacy. The most common point mutation in lung cancer patients is a leucine to arginine substitution at amino acid 834 (L834R). In a recent article, we have studied changes in drug binding affinities due to cancer mutations of EGFR using ensemble molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Here, we address an enhanced activation mechanism thought to be associated with this mutation. Using extended timescale MD simulations, the structural and energetic properties are studied for both active and inactive conformations of EGFR. The thermodynamic stabilities of these two conformations are characterized by free energy landscapes estimated from molecular mechanics/Poisson-Boltzmann solvent area calculations. Our study reveals that the L834R mutation introduces conformational changes in both states, adjusting the relative stabilities of active and inactive conformations and hence the activation of the EGFR kinase.
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