The 11 kDa, positively charged dengue capsid protein (C protein) exists stably as a homodimer and colocalizes with the viral genome within mature viral particles. Its core is composed of four alpha helices encompassing a small hydrophobic patch that may interact with lipids, but approximately 20% of the protein at the N-terminus is intrinsically disordered, making it challenging to elucidate its conformational landscape. Here, we combine small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), amide hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDXMS), and atomic-resolution molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to probe the dynamics of dengue C proteins. We show that the use of MD force fields (FFs) optimized for intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) is necessary to capture their conformational landscape and validate the computationally generated ensembles with reference to SAXS and HDXMS data. Representative ensembles of the C protein dimer are characterized by alternating, clamp-like exposure and occlusion of the internal hydrophobic patch, as well as by residual helical structure at the disordered N-terminus previously identified as a potential source of autoinhibition. Such dynamics are likely to determine the multifunctionality of the C protein during the flavivirus life cycle and hence impact the design of novel antiviral compounds.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine