A structural mechanism for calcium transporter headpiece closure

J Phys Chem B. 2015 Jan 29;119(4):1407-15. doi: 10.1021/jp511433v. Epub 2015 Jan 9.


To characterize the conformational dynamics of sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) calcium pump (SERCA) we performed molecular dynamics simulations beginning with several different high-resolution structures. We quantified differences in structural disorder and dynamics for an open conformation of SERCA versus closed structures and observed that dynamic motions of SERCA cytoplasmic domains decreased with decreasing domain-domain separation distance. The results are useful for interpretation of recent intramolecular Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) distance measurements obtained for SERCA fused to fluorescent protein tags. Those previous physical measurements revealed several discrete structural substates and suggested open conformations of SERCA are more dynamic than compact conformations. The present simulations support this hypothesis and provide additional details of SERCA molecular mechanisms. Specifically, all-atoms simulations revealed large-scale translational and rotational motions of the SERCA N-domain relative to the A- and P-domains during the transition from an open to a closed headpiece conformation over the course of a 400 ns trajectory. The open-to-closed structural transition was accompanied by a disorder-to-order transition mediated by an initial interaction of an N-domain loop (Nβ5-β6, residues 426-436) with residues 133-139 of the A-domain. Mutation of three negatively charged N-domain loop residues abolished the disorder-to-order transition and prevented the initial domain-domain interaction and subsequent closure of the cytoplasmic headpiece. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations were in harmony with all-atoms simulations and physical measurements and revealed a close communication between fluorescent protein tags and the domain to which they were fused. The data indicate that previous intramolecular FRET distance measurements report SERCA structure changes with high fidelity and suggest a structural mechanism that facilitates the closure of the SERCA cytoplasmic headpiece.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum Calcium-Transporting ATPases / chemistry*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum Calcium-Transporting ATPases