The 70 kDa heat shock proteins (Hsp70s) play important roles in preventing the misfolding of proteins and repairing damage under stress by coupling ATP binding and hydrolysis to protein substrate release and binding, respectively. ATP binding is believed to induce closing of the Hsp70 nucleotide binding domain (NBD) around the nucleotide. We report here a combined computational- experimental study of this open-closed transition. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations were performed for isolated open state NBDs with and without bound ATP. The nucleotide-free NBD samples a wide range of open configurations exhibiting flexible rearrangements of its four subdomains (IA-IIB). In contrast, the ATP-bound Hsp70 NBD closes to a range of configurations that is substantially more closed than the conformation observed in crystals of ATP-complexed NBDs. The close approach of subdomains IB and IIB observed in the simulations results in a strong coordination of the fluorescence probe Trp90 of IB with Arg261 of IIB, a feature not seen in the crystal structures. To determine if this computationally observed conformation occurs in solution, we constructed an R261A mutant. The mutation was found to increase the K m and kcat for ATP and to significantly reduce the extent of the fluorescence quench observed upon ATP binding. Our results thus account for the previously unexplained ATP-driven change in Trp90 fluorescence seen in the isolated NBD.
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