Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is highly dependent on its capsid. The capsid is a large container, made of ∼1,300 proteins with altogether 4 million atoms. Although the capsid proteins are all identical, they nevertheless arrange themselves into a largely asymmetric structure made of hexamers and pentamers. The large number of degrees of freedom and lack of symmetry pose a challenge to studying the chemical details of the HIV capsid. Simulations of over 64 million atoms for over 1 μs allow us to conduct a comprehensive study of the chemical–physical properties of an empty HIV-1 capsid, including its electrostatics, vibrational and acoustic properties, and the effects of solvent (ions and water) on the capsid. The simulations reveal critical details about the capsid with implications to biological function.
Juan Perilla and Jodi Hadden were allocated 582,000 NH for research focusing on virus capsids, the interactions of virus capsids with human factors and with antiviral drugs. Perilla says he and Hadden will use the allocation to study the effects of assembly inhibitor on the Hepatitis-B virus capsid and the HIV-1 capsid. “Blue Waters enables us to perform accurate, all-atom simulations of drug-compounds bound to the viral capsid and allows us to perform large-scale analysis of the results from the simulations,” said Pedilla.
Single particle cryoEM has emerged as a powerful method for structure determination of proteins and complexes, complementing X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Yet, for many systems, the resolution of cryoEM density map has been limited to 4–6 Å, which only allows for resolving bulky amino acids side chains, thus hindering accurate model building from the density map. On the other hand, experimental chemical shifts (CS) from solution and solid state MAS NMR spectra provide atomic level data for each amino acid within a molecule or a complex; however, structure determination of large complexes and assemblies based on NMR data alone remains challenging. In a recent publication, our group presented a novel integrated strategy to combine the highly complementary experimental data from cryoEM and NMR computationally by molecular dynamics simulations to derive an atomistic model, which is not attainable by either approach alone. We use the HIV-1 capsid protein (CA) C-terminal domain as well as the large capsid assembly to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, termed NMR CS-biased cryoEM structure refinement.