Exploring movement and energy in human P-glycoprotein conformational rearrangement

Human P-glycoprotein (P-gp), a kind of ATP-Binding Cassette transporter, can export a diverse variety of anti-cancer drugs out of the tumor cell. Its overexpression is one of the main reasons for the multidrug resistance (MDR) of tumor cells. It has been confirmed that during the substrate transport process, P-gp experiences a large-scale structural rearrangement from the inward- to outward-facing states. However, the mechanism of how the nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs) control the transmembrane domains (TMDs) to open towards the periplasm in the outward-facing state has not yet been fully characterized. Herein, targeted molecular dynamics simulations were performed to explore the conformational rearrangement of human P-gp. The results show that the allosteric process proceeds in a coupled way, and first the transition is driven by the NBDs, and then transmitted to the cytoplasmic parts of TMDs, finally to the periplasmic parts. The trajectories show that besides the translational motions, the NBDs undergo a rotation movement, which mainly occurs in xy plane and ensures the formation of the correct ATP-binding pockets. The analyses on the interaction energies between the six structure segments (cICLs) from the TMDs and NBDs reveal that their subtle energy differences play an important role in causing the periplasmic parts of the transmembrane helices to separate from each other in the established directions and in appropriate amplitudes. This conclusion can explain the two experimental phenomena about human P-gp in some extent. These studies have provided a detailed exploration into human P-gp rearrangement process and given an energy insight into the TMD reorientation during P-gp transition.