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


Interactions between RNA molecules and proteins are critical to many cellular processes and are implicated in various diseases. The RNA-peptide complexes are good model systems to probe the recognition mechanism of RNA by proteins. In this work, we report studies on the binding-unbinding process of a helical peptide from a viral RNA element using nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations. We explored the existence of various dissociation pathways with distinct free-energy profiles that reveal metastable states and distinct barriers to peptide dissociation. We also report the free-energy differences for each of the four pathways to be 96.47 ± 12.63, 96.1 ± 10.95, 91.83 ± 9.81, and 92 ± 11.32 kcal/mol. Based on the free-energy analysis, we further propose the preferred pathway and the mechanism of peptide dissociation. The preferred pathway is characterized by the formation of sequential hydrogen-bonding and salt-bridging interactions between several key arginine amino acids and the viral RNA nucleotides. Specifically, we identified one arginine amino acid (R8) of the peptide to play a significant role in the recognition mechanism of the peptide by the viral RNA molecule.

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Biophysical Journal



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© 2021 Biophysical Society.


This is an Open Access article published by Elsevier in Biophysical Journal in 2021, available online: