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T-Cell Receptors Binding Orientation over Peptide/MHC Class I Is Driven by Long-Range Interactions.
Crystallographic data about T-Cell Receptor - peptide - major histocompatibility complex class I (TCRpMHC) interaction have revealed extremely diverse TCR binding modes triggering antigen recognition. Understanding the molecular basis that governs TCR orientation over pMHC is still a considerable challenge. We present a simplified rigid approach applied on all non-redundant TCRpMHC crystal structures available. The CHARMM force field in combination with the FACTS implicit solvation model is used to study the role of long-distance interactions between the TCR and pMHC. We demonstrate that the sum of the coulomb interactions and the electrostatic solvation energies is sufficient to identify two orientations corresponding to energetic minima at 0° and 180° from the native orientation. Interestingly, these results are shown to be robust upon small structural variations of the TCR such as changes induced by Molecular Dynamics simulations, suggesting that shape complementarity is not required to obtain a reliable signal. Accurate energy minima are also identified by confronting unbound TCR crystal structures to pMHC. Furthermore, we decompose the electrostatic energy into residue contributions to estimate their role in the overall orientation. Results show that most of the driving force leading to the formation of the complex is defined by CDR1,2/MHC interactions. This long-distance contribution appears to be independent from the binding process itself, since it is reliably identified without considering neither short-range energy terms nor CDR induced fit upon binding. Ultimately, we present an attempt to predict the TCR/pMHC binding mode for a TCR structure obtained by homology modeling. The simplicity of the approach and the absence of any fitted parameters make it also easily applicable to other types of macromolecular protein complexes.
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