The characterization of protein binding processes - with all of the key conformational changes - has been a grand challenge in the field of biophysics. Here, we have used the weighted ensemble path sampling strategy to orchestrate molecular dynamics simulations, yielding atomistic views of protein-peptide binding pathways involving the MDM2 oncoprotein and an intrinsically disordered p53 peptide. A total of 182 independent, continuous binding pathways were generated, yielding a kon that is in good agreement with experiment. These pathways were generated in 15 days using 3500 cores of a supercomputer, substantially faster than would be possible with "brute force" simulations. Many of these pathways involve the anchoring of p53 residue F19 into the MDM2 binding cleft when forming the metastable encounter complex, indicating that F19 may be a kinetically important residue. Our study demonstrates that it is now practical to generate pathways and calculate rate constants for protein binding processes using atomistic simulation on typical computing resources.
This work describes an example of using Weighted Ensemble Molecular Dynamics (WEMD) in kinetic calculations.