Computational analysis of binding free energies, hotspots and the binding mechanism of Bcl-xL/Bcl-2 binding to Bad/Bax

Lili Duan, Shuheng Dong, Kaifang Huang, Yalong Cong, Song Luo, John Z.H. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The anti-apoptotic proteins B-cell lymphoma-extra large (Bcl-xL) and B-cell lymphoma/leukemia-2 (Bcl-2) are members of the Bcl-2 protein family, and they play important roles in regulating apoptosis and cell cycle retardation. However, the binding mechanisms of Bcl-xL/Bcl-2 with their associated agonists, including Bcl-2-associated death promoter (Bad) and Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax), are not well understood. In the present study, the recently developed interaction entropy approach was employed for the calculation of entropic contribution, and the computational alanine scanning method was used to identify the hot spot in the protein-protein interactions between Bcl-xL/Bcl-2 and Bad/Bax. The calculated binding free energies and their ranks for the four systems were in good agreement with the experimental results. Computational analysis shows that there are more hot-spot residues in the Bcl-xL/Bad complex than that in the Bcl-xL/Bax complex, leading to a stronger binding affinity in the former. It is interesting to find that the reason for the stronger binding affinity of Bcl-2 to Bad than to Bax is different for the Bcl-xL system. Although there are more hot-spot residues in the Bcl-2/Bax system than in the Bcl-2/Bad complex, there are also more negatively contributing residues in the Bcl-2/Bax. Our study identified Arg104, Tyr105, Leu116, and Leu134 to be the common key residues in the Bcl-xL complexes, and Arg107, Tyr108, Phe112, Gln118, Leu137, Arg146, and Tyr202 are common key residues in the Bcl-2 complexes. These results would provide valuable information for the design of potent inhibitors of Bcl-xL/Bcl-2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2025-2037
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 21 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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