Investigation of differences in the binding affinities of two analogous ligands for untagged and tagged p38 kinase using thermodynamic integration MD simulation

Ying Chieh Sun*, Wen Chi Hsu, Chia Jen Hsu, Chia Ming Chang, Kai Hsiang Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Thermodynamic integration (TI) molecular dynamics (MD) simulations for the binding of a pair of a reference (“ref”) ligand and an analogous (“analog”) ligand to either tagged (with six extra residues at the N-terminus) or untagged p38 kinase proteins were carried out in order to probe how the binding affinity is influenced by the presence or absence of the peptide tag in p38 kinase. This possible effect of protein length on the binding affinity of a ligand—which is seldom addressed in the literature—is important because, even when two labs claim to have performed experiments with the same protein, they may actually have studied variants of the same protein with different lengths because they applied different protein expression conditions/procedures. Thus, if we wanted to compare ligand binding affinities measured in the two labs, it would be necessary to account for any variation in ligand binding affinity with protein length. The pair of ligand–p38 kinase complexes examined in this work (pdb codes: 3d7z and 3lhj, respectively) were ideal for investigating this effect. The experimentally determined binding energy for the ref ligand with the untagged p38 kinase was −10.9 kcal mol−1, while that for the analog ligand with the tagged p38 kinase was −11.9 kcal mol−1. The present TI-MD simulation of the mutation of the ref ligand into the analog ligand while the ligand is bound to the untagged p38 kinase predicted that the binding affinity of the analog ligand is 2.0 kcal mol−1 greater than that of the ref ligand. A similar simulation also indicated that the same was true for ligand binding to the tagged protein, but in this case the binding affinity for the analog ligand is 2.5 kcal mol−1 larger than that for the ref ligand. These results therefore suggest that the presence of the peptide tag on p38 kinase increased the difference in the binding energies of the ligands by a small amount of 0.5 kcal mol−1. This result supports the assumption that the presence of a peptide tag has only a minor effect on ΔG values. The error bars in the computed ΔG values were then estimated via confidence interval analysis and a time autocorrelation function for the quantity dV/dλ. The estimated correlation time was ~0.5 ps and the error bar in the ΔG values estimated using nanosecond-scale simulations was ±0.3 kcal mol−1 at a confidence level of 95%. These predicted results can be verified in future experiments and should prove useful in subsequent similar studies. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number283
JournalJournal of Molecular Modeling
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Nov 1


  • Ligand–protein complex
  • Molecular dynamics simulation
  • Thermodynamic integration
  • p38 kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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