Sampling large conformational transitions: Adenylate kinase as a testing ground

Sean L. Seyler, Oliver Beckstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


A fundamental problem in computational biophysics is to deduce the function of a protein from the structure. Many biological macromolecules such as enzymes, molecular motors or membrane transport proteins perform their function by cycling between multiple conformational states. Understanding such conformational transitions, which typically occur on the millisecond to second time scale, is central to understanding protein function. Molecular dynamics (MD) computer simulations have become an important tool to connect molecular structure to function, but equilibrium MD simulations are rarely able to sample on time scales longer than a few microseconds - orders of magnitudes shorter than the time scales of interest. A range of different simulation methods have been proposed to overcome this time-scale limitation. These include calculations of the free energy landscape and path sampling methods to directly sample transitions between known conformations. All these methods solve the problem to sample infrequently occupied but important regions of configuration space. Many path-sampling algorithms have been applied to the closed open transition of the enzyme adenylate kinase (AdK), which undergoes a large, clamshell-like conformational transition between an open and a closed state. Here we review approaches to sample macromolecular transitions through the lens of AdK. We focus our main discussion on the current state of knowledge - both from simulations and experiments - about the transition pathways of ligand-free AdK, its energy landscape, transition rates and interactions with substrates. We conclude with a comparison of the discussed approaches with a view towards quantitative evaluation of path-sampling methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-877
Number of pages23
JournalMolecular Simulation
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - 2014


  • adenylate kinase
  • free energy
  • molecular dynamics simulations
  • potential of mean force
  • rare events
  • sampling
  • transition path

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Information Systems
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Sampling large conformational transitions: Adenylate kinase as a testing ground'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this