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Lanosterol Disrupts Aggregation of Human γD-Crystallin by Binding to the Hydrophobic Dimerization Interface

Kang, Hongsuk, Yang, Zaixing, Zhou, Ruhong
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2018 v.140 no.27 pp. 8479-8486
Gibbs free energy, binding capacity, cataract, cholesterol, crystallins, dimerization, eye lens, geometry, humans, hydrophobicity, in vivo studies, lanosterol, molecular dynamics, vision disorders
Cataracts are a leading cause of vision impairment, which stem from the misfolding and aggregation of crystallins in the eye lens. Despite its prevalence and severity, the detailed mechanism by which misfolded crystallins aggregate into cataracts remains elusive. Recently, in vitro and in vivo experiments demonstrated that lanosterol, a steroid-type compound found in human and animal eyes, can not only prevent cataract formation but also reverse the formation. Inspired by these experimental observations, we investigate the preventive activity of lanosterol in the aggregate formation of human γD-crystallins (HγD-Crys) using all atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulation and free energy perturbation (FEP) techniques. Our results reveal that lanosterol preferentially binds to the HγD-Crys hydrophobic dimerization interface, in particular, to the structured C-terminus (near residues 135–165) with a stronger binding affinity than the unfolded N-terminus. Furthermore, we observe that the C-terminal binding is more favorable than lanosterol self-aggregation, further attesting to lanosterol’s efficacy. Finally, we compare the binding free energy of lanosterol with cholesterol using alchemical transformation and discuss the possible correlation of the molecular geometry of steroids with binding affinity.