Bridging scales through multiscale modeling: a case study on protein kinase A

Front Physiol. 2015 Sep 9;6:250. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2015.00250. eCollection 2015.


The goal of multiscale modeling in biology is to use structurally based physico-chemical models to integrate across temporal and spatial scales of biology and thereby improve mechanistic understanding of, for example, how a single mutation can alter organism-scale phenotypes. This approach may also inform therapeutic strategies or identify candidate drug targets that might otherwise have been overlooked. However, in many cases, it remains unclear how best to synthesize information obtained from various scales and analysis approaches, such as atomistic molecular models, Markov state models (MSM), subcellular network models, and whole cell models. In this paper, we use protein kinase A (PKA) activation as a case study to explore how computational methods that model different physical scales can complement each other and integrate into an improved multiscale representation of the biological mechanisms. Using measured crystal structures, we show how molecular dynamics (MD) simulations coupled with atomic-scale MSMs can provide conformations for Brownian dynamics (BD) simulations to feed transitional states and kinetic parameters into protein-scale MSMs. We discuss how milestoning can give reaction probabilities and forward-rate constants of cAMP association events by seamlessly integrating MD and BD simulation scales. These rate constants coupled with MSMs provide a robust representation of the free energy landscape, enabling access to kinetic, and thermodynamic parameters unavailable from current experimental data. These approaches have helped to illuminate the cooperative nature of PKA activation in response to distinct cAMP binding events. Collectively, this approach exemplifies a general strategy for multiscale model development that is applicable to a wide range of biological problems.

Keywords: Brownian dynamics; Markov state model; molecular dynamics; multiscale model; protein kinase A.

Publication types

  • Review