Sugar (one of the critical nutrition elements for all life forms) transport across the cell membranes play essential roles in a wide range of living organism. One of the most important active transport (against the sugar concentration) mechanisms is facilitated by the transmembrane transporter proteins, such as the Escherichia coli lactose permease (LacY) proteins. Active transport of sugar molecules with LacY proteins requires a proton gradient and a sequence of complicated protein conformational changes. However, the exact molecular mechanisms and the protein structural information involved in the transport process are largely unknown. All atom atomistic simulations are able to provide full details but are limited to relative small length and time scales due to the computational cost. The protein conformational changes during sugar transport across LacY are large scale structural reorganization and inaccessible to all atom simulations. In this work, we investigate the molecular mechanisms and conformational changes during sugar transport using coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CGMD) simulations. In our coarse-grained force field, we follow the procedures developed by Han et al. [1, 2], in which the protein model is united-atom based and each heavy atom together with the attached hydrogen atoms is represented by one site, then the protein force filed is coupled with the MARTINI [3] water and lipid force fields. This hybrid force field takes the advantage of the efficiency of MARTINI force field for the environment (water and lipid), while retaining the detailed conformational information for the proteins. Specifically, we develop the new force fields for interactions between sugar molecules and protein by matching the potential of mean force between all-atom and coarse-grained models. Then we validate our force field by comparing the potential of mean force for a glucose interaction with a carbohydrate binding protein from our new force field, with the results from all atom simulations. After validation, we implement the force field for sugar transport across LacY proteins. Through our simulations we are able to capture the formation/breakage of the important hydrogen bonds and salt bridges, which are crucial to the overall conformational changes of LacY.

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