Obtaining atomistic resolution of drug unbinding from a protein is a much sought-after experimental and computational challenge. We report the unbinding dynamics of the anticancer drug dasatinib from c-Src kinase in full atomistic resolution using enhanced sampling molecular dynamics simulations. We obtain multiple unbinding trajectories and determine a residence time in agreement with experiments. We observe coupled protein-water movement through multiple metastable intermediates. The water molecules form a hydrogen bond bridge, elongating a specific, evolutionarily preserved salt bridge and enabling conformation changes essential to ligand unbinding. This water insertion in the salt bridge acts as a molecular switch that controls unbinding. Our findings provide a mechanistic rationale for why it might be difficult to engineer drugs targeting certain specific c-Src kinase conformations to have longer residence times.
This work describes an example of using Metadynamics in kinetic calculations.