Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics Simulations as a Combined Platform for Probing Protein Face-Specific Binding Academic Article uri icon


  • Biomolecular interactions frequently occur in orientation-specific manner. For example, prior nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy experiments in our lab have suggested the presence of a group of strongly binding residues on a particular face of the protein ubiquitin for interactions with Capto MMC multimodal ligands (“Capto” ligands) (Srinivasan, K.; et al. Langmuir 2014, 30 (44), 13205–13216). We present a clear confirmation of those studies by performing single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) measurements of unbinding complemented with molecular dynamics (MD) calculations of the adsorption free energy of ubiquitin in two distinct orientations with self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) functionalized with “Capto” ligands. These orientations were maintained in the SMFS experiments by tethering ubiquitin mutants to SAM surfaces through strategically located cysteines, thus exposing the desired faces of the protein. Analogous orientations were maintained in MD simulations using suitable constraining methods. Remarkably, despite differences between the finer details of experimental and simulation methodologies, they confirm a clear preference for the previously hypothesized binding face of ubiquitin. Furthermore, MD simulations provided significant insights into the mechanism of protein binding onto this multimodal surface. Because SMFS and MD simulations both directly probe protein–surface interactions, this work establishes a key link between experiments and simulations at molecular scale through the determination of protein face-specific binding energetics. Our approach may have direct applications in biophysical systems where face- or orientation-specific interactions are important, such as biomaterials, sensors, and biomanufacturing.

publication date

  • September 26, 2017