Carrier proteins are four-helix bundles that covalently hold metabolites and secondary metabolites, such as fatty acids, polyketides and non-ribosomal peptides. These proteins mediate the production of many pharmaceutically important compounds including antibiotics and anticancer agents. Acyl carrier proteins (ACPs) can be found as part of a multi-domain polypeptide (Type I ACPs), or as part of a multiprotein complex (Type II). Here, the main focus is on ACP2 and ACP3, domains from the type I trans-AT polyketide synthase MmpA, which is a core component of the biosynthetic pathway of the antibiotic mupirocin. During molecular dynamics simulations of their apo, holo and acyl forms ACP2 and ACP3 both form a substrate-binding surface-groove. The substrates bound to this surface-groove have polar groups on their acyl chain exposed and forming hydrogen bonds with the solvent. Bulky hydrophobic residues in the GXDS motif common to all ACPs, and similar residues on helix III, appear to prohibit the formation of a deep tunnel in type I ACPs and type II ACPs from polyketide synthases. In contrast, the equivalent positions in ACPs from type II fatty acid synthases, which do form a deep solvent-excluded substrate-binding tunnel, have the small residue alanine. During simulation, ACP3 with mutations I61A L36A W44L forms a deep tunnel that can fully bury a saturated substrate in the core of the ACP, in contrast to the surface groove of the wild type ACP3. Similarly, in the ACP from E. coli fatty acid synthase, a type II ACP, mutations can change ligand binding from being inside a deep tunnel to being in a surface groove, thus demonstrating how changing a few residues can modify the possibilities for ligand binding.
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