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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Mar 2022 - 25 Mar 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Mar 23

Sci Rep



Atomistic mechanisms of human TRPA1 activation by electrophile irritants through molecular dynamics simulation and mutual information analysis.



The ion channel TRPA1 is a promiscuous chemosensor, with reported response to a wide spectrum of noxious electrophilic irritants, as well as cold, heat, and mechanosensation. It is also implicated in the inception of itch and pain and has hence been investigated as a drug target for novel analgesics. The mechanism of electrophilic activation for TRPA1 is therefore of broad interest. TRPA1 structures with the pore in both open and closed states have recently been published as well as covalent binding modes for electrophile agonists. However, the detailed mechanism of coupling between electrophile binding sites and the pore remains speculative. In addition, while two different cysteine residues (C621 and C665) have been identified as critical for electrophile bonding and activation, the bound geometry has only been resolved at C621. Here, we use molecular dynamics simulations of TRPA1 in both pore-open and pore-closed states to explore the allosteric link between the electrophile binding sites and pore stability. Our simulations reveal that an open pore is structurally stable in the presence of open 'pockets' in the C621/C665 region, but rapidly collapses and closes when these pockets are shut. Binding of electrophiles at either C621 or C665 provides stabilisation of the pore-open state, but molecules bound at C665 are shown to be able to rotate in and out of the pocket, allowing for immediate stabilisation of transient open states. Finally, mutual information analysis of trajectories reveals an informational path linking the electrophile binding site pocket to the pore via the voltage-sensing-like domain, giving a detailed insight into the how the pore is stabilized in the open state.