Structure-wise discrimination of cytosine, thymine, and uracil by proteins in terms of their nonbonded interactions.J Biomol Struct Dyn. 2014; 32(10):1686-704.JB
The molecular recognition and discrimination of very similar ligand moieties by proteins are important subjects in protein-ligand interaction studies. Specificity in the recognition of molecules is determined by the arrangement of protein and ligand atoms in space. The three pyrimidine bases, viz. cytosine, thymine, and uracil, are structurally similar, but the proteins that bind to them are able to discriminate them and form interactions. Since nonbonded interactions are responsible for molecular recognition processes in biological systems, our work attempts to understand some of the underlying principles of such recognition of pyrimidine molecular structures by proteins. The preferences of the amino acid residues to contact the pyrimidine bases in terms of nonbonded interactions; amino acid residue-ligand atom preferences; main chain and side chain atom contributions of amino acid residues; and solvent-accessible surface area of ligand atoms when forming complexes are analyzed. Our analysis shows that the amino acid residues, tyrosine and phenyl alanine, are highly involved in the pyrimidine interactions. Arginine prefers contacts with the cytosine base. The similarities and differences that exist between the interactions of the amino acid residues with each of the three pyrimidine base atoms in our analysis provide insights that can be exploited in designing specific inhibitors competitive to the ligands.