Molecular dynamics of the frame-shifting pseudoknot from beet western yellows virus: The role of non- Watson-Crick base-pairing, ordered hydration, cation binding and base mutations on stability and unfolding
Molecular dynamics simulations of the frame-shifting pseudoknot from beet western yellows virus (BWYV, NDB file UR0004) were performed with explicit inclusion of solvent and counterions. In all, 33 ns of simulation were carried out, including 10 ns of the native structure with protonation of the crucial cytosine residue, C8(N3+). The native structure exhibited stable trajectories retaining all Watson-Crick and tertiary base-pairs, except for fluctuations or transient disruptions at spec most significant fluctuations involved the change or disruption of hydrogen-bonding between C8(N3+) and bases G12, A25, and C26, as well as disruption of the water bridges linking C8(N3+) with A25 and C26. To increase sampling of rare events, the native simulation was continued at 400 K. A partial, irreversible unfolding of the molecule was initiated by slippage of C8(N3+) relative to G12 and continued by sudden concerted changes in hydrogen-bonding involving A23, A24, and A25. These events were followed by a gradual loss of stacking interactions in loop 2. Of the Watson-Crick base-pairs, only the 5'-terminal pair of stem 1 dissociated at 400 K, while the trans sugar-edge/sugar-edge A20(.)G4 interaction remained surprisingly stable. Four additional room-temperature simulations were carried out to obtain insights into the structural and dynamic effects of selected mutations. In two of these, C8 was left unprotonated. Considerable local rearrangements occurred that were not observed in the crystal structure, thus confirming N3-protonation of C8 in the native molecule. We also investigated the effect of mutating CS(N3+) to US, to correlate with experimental and phylogenetic studies, and of changing the G4(.)C17 base-pair to A4(.)U17 to weaken the trans sugar-edge interaction between positions 4 and 20 and to test models of unfolding. The simulations indicate that the C8(.)G12(.)C26 base-triple at the junction is the most labile region of the frame-shifting pseudoknot. They provide insights into the roles of the other non-Watson-Crick basepairs in the early stages of unfolding of the pseudoknot, which must occur to allow readthrough of the message by the ribosome. The simulations revealed several critical, highly ordered hydration sites with close to 100% occupancies and residency times of individual water molecules of up to 5 ns. Sodium cation coordination sites with occupancies above 50% were also observed. (C) 2001 Academic Press.