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A growing body of evidence suggests that only a few amino acids (“hot-spots”) at the interface contribute most of the binding energy in transient protein-protein interactions. However, experimental protocols to identify these hot-spots are highly labor-intensive and expensive. Computational methods, including evolutionary couplings, have been proposed to predict the hot-spots, but they generally fail to provide details of the interacting amino acids. Here we showed that unbiased evolutionary methods followed by biased molecular dynamic simulations could achieve this goal and reveal critical elements of protein complexes. We applied the methodology to selected G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), known for their therapeutic properties. We used the structure-priorassisted direct coupling analysis (SP-DCA) to predict the binding interfaces of A2aR/D2R, CB1R/D2R, A2aR/CB1R, 5HT2AR/D2R, and 5-HT2AR/mGluR2 receptor heterodimers, which all agreed with published data. In order to highlight details of the interactions, we performed molecular dynamic (MD) simulations using the newly developed AWSEM energy model. We found that these receptors interact primarily through critical residues at the C and N terminal domains and the third intracellular loop (ICL3). The MD simulations showed that these residues are energetically necessary for dimerization and revealed their native conformational state. We subsequently applied the methodology to the 5-HT2AR/5-HTR4R heterodimer, given its implication in drug addiction and neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Further, the SP-DCA analysis showed that 5-HT2AR and 5-HTR4R heterodimerize through the C-terminal domain of 5-HT2AR and ICL3 of 5-HT4R. However, elucidating the details of GPCR interactions would accelerate the discovery of druggable sites and improve our knowledge of the etiology of common diseases, including AD.


© 2023 by the authors.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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