Computational insights into the binding mechanism of oxys srna with chaperone protein hfq

Mengxin Li, Yalong Cong, Yifei Qi, John Z.H. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under the oxidative stress condition, the small RNA (sRNA) OxyS that acts as essential post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression is produced and plays a regulatory function with the assistance of the RNA chaperone Hfq protein. Interestingly, experimental studies found that the N48A mutation of Hfq protein could enhance the binding affinity with OxyS while resulting in the defection of gene regulation. However, how the Hfq protein interacts with sRNA OxyS and the origin of the stronger affinity of N48A mutation are both unclear. In this paper, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were performed on the complex structure of Hfq and OxyS to explore their binding mechanism. The molecular mechanics generalized born surface area (MM/GBSA) and interaction entropy (IE) method were combined to calculate the binding free energy between Hfq and OxyS sRNA, and the computational result was correlated with the experimental result. Per-residue decomposition of the binding free energy revealed that the enhanced binding ability of the N48A mutation mainly came from the increased van der Waals interactions (vdW). This research explored the binding mechanism between Oxys and chaperone protein Hfq and revealed the origin of the strong binding affinity of N48A mutation. The results provided important insights into the mechanism of gene expression regulation affected by protein mutations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1653
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Binding free energy
  • Gene expression regulator
  • Interaction entropy
  • Molecular dynamics simulations
  • RNA chaperone Hfq protein
  • Small RNA OxyS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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