Proteins adapt to environmental conditions by changing their shape and motions. Characterising protein conformational dynamics is increasingly recognised as necessary to understand how proteins function. Given a conformational ensemble, computational tools are needed to extract in a systematic way pertinent and comprehensive biological information.
Here, we present a method, Communication Mapping (COMMA), to decipher the dynamical architecture of a protein. The method first extracts residue-based dynamic properties from all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. Then, it integrates them in a graph theoretic framework, where it identifies groups of residues or protein regions that mediate short- and long-range communication. COMMA introduces original concepts to contrast the different roles played by these regions, namely communication blocks and communicating segment pairs, and evaluates the connections and communication strengths between them. We show the utility and capabilities of COMMA by applying it to three archetypal proteins, namely protein A, the tyrosine kinase KIT and the tumour suppressor p53.
Our method permits to compare in a direct way the dynamical behaviour either of proteins with different characteristics or of the same protein in different conditions. It is useful to identify residues playing a key role in protein allosteric regulation and to explain the effects of deleterious mutations in a mechanistic way. COMMA is a fully automated tool with broad applicability. It is freely available to the community at www.lcqb.upmc.fr/COMMA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0855-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.