Multiscale Molecular Dynamics Studies Reveal Different Modes of Receptor Clustering by Gb3-Binding Lectins

J Chem Theory Comput. 2021 Apr 13;17(4):2488-2501. doi: 10.1021/acs.jctc.0c01145. Epub 2021 Apr 1.


The recognition of carbohydrate receptors on host cell membranes by pathogenic lectins is a crucial step in the microbial invasion. Two bacterial lectins, the B-subunit of Shiga toxin from Shigella dysenteria (StxB) and lectin I from Pseudomonas aeruginosa (LecA), are specific to the same galactolipid-globotriaosylceramide (Gb3). In this study we present a coarse-grained (cg) model of Gb3, which we further apply to unravel the molecular details of glycolipid binding by two lectins on the surface of a DOPC/cholesterol/Gb3 bilayer. In cg molecular dynamics simulations with time scales of dozens of microseconds, Gb3 was randomly distributed. The binding of both StxB or LecA is accompanied by Gb3 clustering in a cholesterol environment and with exclusion of DOPC in protein vicinity. StxB being bound by all 15 binding sites induced membrane bending, while LecA interacted with two out of four binding sites for most of the time causing a smaller inward curvature of the model membrane. Stable interactions occurred preferably when LecA was normal to the membrane surface. Furthermore, all-atom simulations revealed that LecA bound Gb3's headgroup at only one out of two possible conformations of the carbohydrate moiety observed at protein-free conditions. The results shed light on the mechanism of interactions between two lectins and Gb3 on the membrane surface and offer a coarse-grained model to study more complex systems at large spatiotemporal scales.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Lectins / chemistry*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / chemistry
  • Trihexosylceramides / chemistry*


  • Lectins
  • Trihexosylceramides
  • globotriaosylceramide