Structural Characterization of the Aurora Kinase B “DFG-flip” Using Metadynamics

Naga Rajiv Lakkaniga, Meenakshisundaram Balasubramaniam, Shuxing Zhang, Brendan Frett, Hong yu Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Aurora kinase B (AKB), a Ser/Thr kinase that plays a crucial role in mitosis, is overexpressed in several cancers. Clinical inhibitors targeting AKB bind to the active DFG “in” conformation of the kinase. It would be beneficial, however, to understand if AKB is susceptible to type II kinase inhibitors that bind to the inactive, DFG “out” conformation, since type II inhibitors achieve higher kinome selectivity and higher potency in vivo. The DFG “out” conformation of AKB is not yet experimentally determined which makes the design of type II inhibitors exceedingly difficult. An alternate approach is to simulate the DFG “out” conformation from the experimentally determined DFG “in” conformation using atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulation. In this work, we employed metadynamics (MTD) approach to simulate the DFG “out” conformation of AKB by choosing the appropriate collective variables. We examined structural changes during the DFG-flip and determined the interactions crucial to stabilize the kinase in active and inactive states. Interestingly, the MTD approach also identified a unique transition state (DFG “up”), which can be targeted by small molecule inhibitors. Structural insights about these conformations is essential for structure-guided design of next-generation AKB inhibitors. This work also emphasizes the usefulness of MTD simulations in predicting macromolecular conformational changes at reduced computational costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalAAPS Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Aurora kinase B
  • DFG-in conformation
  • DFG-out conformation
  • metadynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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