Markov models of the apo-MDM2 lid region reveal diffuse yet two-state binding dynamics and receptor poses for computational docking

Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 19;6:31631. doi: 10.1038/srep31631.


MDM2 is a negative regulator of p53 activity and an important target for cancer therapeutics. The N-terminal lid region of MDM2 modulates interactions with p53 via competition for its binding cleft, exchanging slowly between docked and undocked conformations in the absence of p53. To better understand these dynamics, we constructed Markov State Models (MSMs) from large collections of unbiased simulation trajectories of apo-MDM2, and find strong evidence for diffuse, yet two-state folding and binding of the N-terminal region to the p53 receptor site. The MSM also identifies holo-like receptor conformations highly suitable for computational docking, despite initiating trajectories from closed-cleft receptor structures unsuitable for docking. Fixed-anchor docking studies using a test set of high-affinity small molecules and peptides show simulated receptor ensembles achieve docking successes comparable to cross-docking studies using crystal structures of receptors bound by alternative ligands. For p53, the best-scoring receptor structures have the N-terminal region lid region bound in a helical conformation mimicking the bound structure of p53, suggesting lid region association induces receptor conformations suitable for binding. These results suggest that MD + MSM approaches can sample binding-competent receptor conformations suitable for computational peptidomimetic design, and that inclusion of disordered regions may be essential to capturing the correct receptor dynamics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Molecular Docking Simulation*
  • Protein Domains
  • Protein Folding*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / chemistry
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • MDM2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2