Skip to main content

Structural characterization of an intrinsically disordered protein complex using integrated small-angle neutron scattering an...

by Szu Hua Chen, Kevin L Weiss, Christopher B Stanley, Debsindhu Bhowmik
Publication Type
Journal Name
Protein Science
Publication Date

Characterizing structural ensembles of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) of proteins is essential for studying structure–function relationships. Due to the different neutron scattering lengths of hydrogen and deuterium, selective labeling and contrast matching in small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) becomes an effective tool to study dynamic structures of disordered systems. However, experimental timescales typically capture measurements averaged over multiple conformations, leaving complex SANS data for disentanglement. We hereby demonstrate an integrated method to elucidate the structural ensemble of a complex formed by two IDRs. We use data from both full contrast and contrast matching with residue-specific deuterium labeling SANS experiments, microsecond all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with four molecular mechanics force fields, and an autoencoder-based deep learning (DL) algorithm. From our combined approach, we show that selective deuteration provides additional information that helps characterize structural ensembles. We find that among the four force fields, a99SB-disp and CHARMM36m show the strongest agreement with SANS and NMR experiments. In addition, our DL algorithm not only complements conventional structural analysis methods but also successfully differentiates NMR and MD structures which are indistinguishable on the free energy surface. Lastly, we present an ensemble that describes experimental SANS and NMR data better than MD ensembles generated by one single force field and reveal three clusters of distinct conformations. Our results demonstrate a new integrated approach for characterizing structural ensembles of IDPs.