The nonmevalonate pathway is responsible for isoprenoid production in microbes, including H. pylori, M. tuberculosis and P. falciparum, but is nonexistent in humans, thus providing a desirable route for antibacterial and antimalarial drug discovery. We coordinate a structural study of IspH, a [4Fe-4S] protein responsible for converting HMBPP to IPP and DMAPP in the ultimate step in the nonmevalonate pathway. By performing accelerated molecular dynamics simulations on both substrate-free and HMBPP-bound [Fe4S4]2+ IspH, we elucidate how substrate binding alters the dynamics of the protein. Using principal component analysis, we note that while substrate-free IspH samples various open and closed conformations, the closed conformation observed experimentally for HMBPP-bound IspH is inaccessible in the absence of HMBPP. In contrast, simulations with HMBPP bound are restricted from accessing the open states sampled by the substrate-free simulations. Further investigation of the substrate-free simulations reveals large fluctuations in the HMBPP binding pocket, as well as allosteric pocket openings – both of which are achieved through the hinge motions of the individual domains in IspH. Coupling these findings with solvent mapping and various structural analyses reveals alternative druggable sites that may be exploited in future drug design efforts.
Drug resistance has recently entered into media conversations through the lens of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections, but conventional therapies are also failing to address resistance in cases of malaria and other bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis. To address these problems, we must develop new antibacterial and antimalarial medications. Our research focuses on understanding the structure and dynamics of IspH, an enzyme whose function is necessary for the survival of most bacteria and malaria-causing protozoans. Using computer simulations, we track how the structure of IspH changes in the presence and absence of its natural substrate. By inspecting the pockets that form in the normal motions of IspH, we propose a couple new routes by which new molecules may be developed to disrupt the function of IspH. It is our hope that these structural studies may be precursors to the development of novel therapies that may add to our current arsenal against bacterial and malarial infections.