Exploring Post-activation Conformational Changes in Pigeon Cryptochrome 4
Fabian Schuhmann, Daniel R. Kattnig, Ilia A. Solov'yov
Journal of Physical Chemistry B
A widespread hypothesis ascribes the ability of migratory birds to navigateover large distances to an inclination compass realized by the protein cryptochrome in the birds' retinae. Cryptochromes are activated by blue light, which induces a radical pair state the spin dynamics of which may become sensitive to earth’s weak magnetic fields. The magnetic information is encoded and passed on to downstream processes by structural rearrangements of the protein, the details of which remain vague. We utilize extensive all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to probe the conformational changes of pigeon cryptochrome 4 upon light activation. The structural dynamics are analyzed based on principal component analysis and with the help of distance matrices, which reveal significant changes in selected inter-residue distances. The results are evaluated and discussed with reference to the protein structure and its putative function as a magnetoreceptor. It is suggested that the phosphate-binding loop could act as a gate controlling the access to the flavin adenine dinucleotide cofactor depending on the redox state of the protein.

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