The dissociation of huperzine A (hupA) from Torpedo californica acetylcholinesterase ( TcAChE) was investigated by 4 μs unbiased and biased all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations in explicit solvent. We performed our study using memetic sampling (MS) for the determination of reaction pathways (RPs), metadynamics to calculate free energy, and maximum-likelihood estimation (MLE) to recover kinetic rates from unbiased MD simulations. Our simulations suggest that the dissociation of hupA occurs mainly via two RPs: a front door along the axis of the active-site gorge (pwf) and through a new transient side door (pws), i.e., formed by the Ω-loop (residues 67-94 of TcAChE). An analysis of the inhibitor unbinding along the RPs suggests that pws is opened transiently after hupA and the Ω-loop reach a low free-energy transition state characterized by the orientation of the pyridone group of the inhibitor directed toward the Ω-loop plane. Unlike pws, pwf does not require large structural changes in TcAChE to be accessible. The estimated free energies and rates agree well with available experimental data. The dissociation rates along the unbinding pathways are similar, suggesting that the dissociation of hupA along pws is likely to be relevant. This indicates that perturbations to hupA- TcAChE interactions could potentially induce pathway hopping. In summary, our results characterize the slow-onset inhibition of TcAChE by hupA, which may provide the structural and energetic bases for the rational design of the next-generation slow-onset inhibitors with optimized pharmacokinetic properties for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
This work describes an example of using Unbiased molecular dynamics simulation in kinetic calculations.