Differential stability of the crystallographic interfaces of mu- and kappa-opioid receptors

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 28;9(2):e90694. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090694. eCollection 2014.


The recent mu-opioid receptor (MOPr) and kappa-opioid receptor (KOPr) crystal structures have inspired hypotheses of physiologically relevant dimerization contacts, specifically: a closely packed interface involving transmembrane (TM) helices TM5 and TM6, and a less compact interface, involving TM1, TM2, and helix 8 (H8). While the former was only found in MOPr crystals, similar arrangements of the latter were identified for both KOPr and MOPr. The relevance of these interfaces outside of a crystal lattice is called into question by the possibility that they might be influenced by the specific crystallization conditions. In this study, we have employed umbrella sampling molecular dynamics simulations of coarse-grained representations of the interacting MOPr or KOPr crystallographic structures, in the absence of the T4 lysozyme, and in an explicit lipid-water environment, to determine the strength of receptor dimerization at the different crystallographic interfaces. We note that the shape of the interface plays a dominant role in the strength of the interaction, and the pattern of contacting residues defines the shape of the potential of mean force. This information can be used to guide experiments aimed at exploring the role of dimerization in opioid receptor function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary*
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / metabolism
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / metabolism


  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu