Protein-protein interactions depend on a host of environmental factors. Local pH conditions influence the interactions through the protonation states of the ionizable residues that can change upon binding. In this work, we present a pH-sensitive docking approach, pHDock, that can sample side-chain protonation states of five ionizable residues (Asp, Glu, His, Tyr, Lys) on-the-fly during the docking simulation. pHDock produces successful local docking funnels in approximately half (79/161) the protein complexes, including 19 cases where standard RosettaDock fails. pHDock also performs better than the two control cases comprising docking at pH 7.0 or using fixed, predetermined protonation states. On average, the top-ranked pHDock structures have lower interface RMSDs and recover more native interface residue-residue contacts and hydrogen bonds compared to RosettaDock. Addition of backbone flexibility using a computationally-generated conformational ensemble further improves native contact and hydrogen bond recovery in the top-ranked structures. Although pHDock is designed to improve docking, it also successfully predicts a large pH-dependent binding affinity change in the Fc–FcRn complex, suggesting that it can be exploited to improve affinity predictions. The approaches in the study contribute to the goal of structural simulations of whole-cell protein-protein interactions including all the environmental factors, and they can be further expanded for pH-sensitive protein design.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics