Calcium Induced Regulation of Skeletal Troponin — Computational Insights from Molecular Dynamics Simulations

The interaction between calcium and the regulatory site(s) of striated muscle regulatory protein troponin switches on and off muscle contraction. In skeletal troponin binding of calcium to sites I and II of the TnC subunit results in a set of structural changes in the troponin complex, displaces tropomyosin along the actin filament and allows myosin-actin interaction to produce mechanical force. In this study, we used molecular dynamics simulations to characterize the calcium dependent dynamics of the fast skeletal troponin molecule and its TnC subunit in the calcium saturated and depleted states. We focused on the N-lobe and on describing the atomic level events that take place subsequent to removal of the calcium ion from the regulatory sites I and II. A main structural event - a closure of the A/B helix hydrophobic pocket results from the integrated effect of the following conformational changes: the breakage of H-bond interactions between the backbone nitrogen atoms of the residues at positions 2, 9 and sidechain oxygen atoms of the residue at position 12 (N2-OE12/N9-OE12) in sites I and II; expansion of sites I and II and increased site II N-terminal end-segment flexibility; strengthening of the bsheet scaffold; and the subsequent re-packing of the N-lobe hydrophobic residues. Additionally, the calcium release allows the N-lobe to rotate relative to the rest of the Tn molecule. Based on the findings presented herein we propose a novel model of skeletal thin filament regulation.