Modelling packing interactions in parallel helix bundles: pentameric bundles of nicotinic receptor M2 helices.
Sankararamakrishnan R., Sansom MS.
The transbilayer pore of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) is formed by a pentameric bundle of M2 helices. Models of pentameric bundles of M2 helices have been generated using simulated annealing via restrained molecular dynamics. The influence of: (a) the initial C alpha template; and (b) screening of sidechain electrostatic interactions on the geometry of the resultant M2 helix bundles is explored. Parallel M2 helices, in the absence of sidechain electrostatic interactions, pack in accordance with simple ridges-in-grooves considerations. This results in a helix crossing angle of ca. +12 degrees, corresponding to a left-handed coiled coil structure for the bundle as a whole. Tilting of M2 helices away from the central pore axis at their C-termini and/or inclusion of sidechain electrostatic interactions may perturb such ridges-in-grooves packing. In the most extreme cases right-handed coiled coils are formed. An interplay between inter-helix H-bonding and helix bundle geometry is revealed. The effects of changes in electrostatic screening on the dimensions of the pore mouth are described and the significance of these changes in the context of models for the nAChR pore domain is discussed.