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Pure Appl. Chem., 2003, Vol. 75, No. 2-3, pp. 359-366

Structural flexibility of hyaluronan oligomers as probed by molecular modelling

A. Tafi1*, Fabrizio Manetti1, F. Corelli1, Stefano Alcaro2 and M. Botta1

1 Dipartimento Farmaco Chimico Tecnologico, Università degli Studi di Siena, Via Aldo Moro, I-53100 Siena, Italy
2 Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacobiologiche, Università di Catanzaro “Magna Græcia”, Complesso Ninì Barbieri, I-88021 Roccelletta di Borgia (CZ), Italy

Abstract: In the last few years, molecular modeling studies have been published that are devoted to a better understanding of the structural flexibility of hyaluronan (HA). Further conformational investigations, however, are needed on this polysaccharide, such as the application of statistical methods to perform enhanced one-step conformational analyses of its subunits. Moreover, the adjustment of assisted model building and energy refinement (AMBER) force field could provide the appropriate computational tool to study the interactions of HA and its derivatives with proteins. The present paper reports a combined Monte Carlo (MC) and molecular dynamics (MD) approach applied to the conformational study of HA, using an adjusted version of AMBER force field and the generalized Born solvent-accessible surface area (GB/SA) continuum solvation model. The MC approach turned out to be extremely effective to outline a conformational survey of the disaccharides constituting HA. Complete sets of conformations of the monomers were provided for the first time, some of which had never been predicted. MD technique, integrating the MC results, correctly reproduced the unusual stiffness of HA and predicted the existence of a minor skew-boat conformation of the β-d-glucuronic moiety. The computational approach, as a whole, improved the comprehension of the dynamic behavior of HA and offered a clear causal explanation of the relative dynamics of the glycosidic linkages.