The conformational change of a protein upon ligand binding was examined by normal mode analysis (NMA) based on an elastic-network model (ENM) for a full-atom system using dihedral angles as independent variables. Specifically, we investigated the extent to which conformational change vectors of atoms from an apo form to a holo form of a protein can be represented by a linear combination of the displacement vectors of atoms in the apo form calculated for the lowest-frequency m normal modes (m = 1, 2, ..., 20). In this analysis, the latter vectors were best fitted to the former ones by the least-squares method. Twenty-two paired proteins in the holo and apo forms, including three dimer pairs, were examined. The results showed that, in most cases, the conformational change vectors were reproduced well by a linear combination of the displacement vectors of a small number of low-frequency normal modes. The conformational change around an active site was reproduced as well as the entire conformational change, except for some proteins that only undergo significant conformational changes around active sites. The weighting factors for 20 normal modes optimized by the least-squares fitting characterize the conformational changes upon ligand binding for these proteins. The conformational changes sampled around the apo form of a protein by the linear combination of the displacement vectors obtained by ENM-based NMA may help solve the flexible-docking problem of a protein with another molecule because the results presented herein suggest that they have a relatively high probability of being involved in an actual conformational change.
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