The Journal of chemical physics

Capturing molten globule state of α-lactalbumin through constant pH molecular dynamics simulations.

PMID 23485328


The recently developed methods of constant pH molecular dynamics directly captures the correlation between protonation and conformation to probe protein structure, function, and dynamics. In this work, we investigate the effect of pH on the conformational properties of the protein human α-lactalbumin. Constant pH simulations at both acidic and alkaline medium indicate the formation of the molten globule state, which is in accordance with the previous experimental observations (especially, in acidic medium). The size of the protein measured by its radius of gyration (RG) exhibits a marked increase in both acidic and alkaline medium, which matches with the corresponding experimentally observed value of RG found in the molten globule. The probability of native contacts is also considerably reduced at acidic and basic pH as compared to that of native structure crystallized at neutral pH. The mean fractal dimension D2 of the protein records a sharp increase in basic medium as compared to those in neutral and acidic solutions implying a significant pH induced conformational change. The mean square fluctuations of all residues of the entire protein are found to increase by several folds in both acidic and basic medium, which may be correlated with the normalized solvent accessibility of the residues indicating role of solvent accessible surface area on protein internal dynamics. The helices comprising the α-domain of the protein are moderately preserved in the acidic and alkaline pH. However, the β-sheet structures present in the β-domain are completely disrupted in both acidic as well as basic pH.