Conformational instability of human prion protein upon residue modification: a molecular dynamics simulation study


  • Kourosh Bamdad Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Payame Noor University, Iran
  • Hossein Naderi-manesh Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Science, Tarbiat Modares University, Iran
  • Artur Baumgaertner Institute of Solid State Research, Research Center Jülich, Germany


amino acid substitution, electrostatic interaction, molecular dynamics simulation, human prion protein


Technical strategies like amino acid substitution and residue modification have been widely used to characterize the importance of key amino acids and the role that each residue plays in the structural and functional properties of protein molecules. However, there is no systematic approach to assess the impact of the substituted/modified amino acids on the conformational dynamics of proteins. In this investigation to clarify the effects of residue modifications on the structural dynamics of human prion protein (PrP), a comparative molecular dynamics simulation study on the native and the amino acid-substituted analog at position 208 of PrP has been performed. It is believed that Arginine to Histidine mutation at position 208 is responsible for the structural transition of the native form of human prion protein to the pathogenic isoform causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

So, three 10 ns molecular dynamics simulations on three model constructs have been performed. Simulation results indicated considerable differences of conformational fluctuations for Alanine substituted construct (PrPALA) and the analog form (PrPSB) comprising the neutralized state of the Arginine residue at position 208 of the human prion protein.

According to our data, substitution of the Arginine residue by the uncharged state of this residue induces some reversible structural alterations in the intrinsically flexible loop area including residues 167–171 of PrP. Thus, deprotonation of Arg208 is a weak perturbation to the structural fluctuations of the protein backbone and the resulting construct behaves almost identical as its native form. Otherwise, Alanine substitution at position 208 imposed an irreversible impact on the secondary and tertiary structure of the protein, which leads to conformational instabilities in the remote hot region comprising residues 190–195 of the C–terminal part of helix 2.

Based on the results, it could be deduced that the observed conformational transitions upon Arg208 to His point mutation, which is the main reason for CJD, may be mainly related to the structural instabilities due to the induced-conformational changes that caused alterations in local/spatial arrangements of the force distributions in the backbone of the human prion protein.



How to Cite

Bamdad, K., Naderi-manesh, H., & Baumgaertner, A. (2014). Conformational instability of human prion protein upon residue modification: a molecular dynamics simulation study. EXCLI Journal, 13, 212–222. Retrieved from



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