The Q41R mutation in the HCV-protease enhances the reactivity towards MAVS by suppressing non-reactive pathways

Zheng C., Schneider M., MARION A., Antes I.

PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, vol.24, no.4, pp.2126-2138, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 24 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1039/d1cp05002h
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Chimica, Communication Abstracts, EMBASE, INSPEC, MEDLINE
  • Page Numbers: pp.2126-2138
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


Recent experimental findings pointed out a new mutation in the HCV protease, Q41R, responsible for a significant enhancement of the enzyme's reactivity towards the mitochondrial antiviral-signaling protein (MAVS). The Q41R mutation is located rather far from the active site, and its involvement in the overall reaction mechanism is thus unclear. We used classical molecular dynamics and QM/MM to study the acylation reaction of HCV NS3/4A protease variants bound to MAVS and the NS4A/4B substrate and uncovered the indirect mechanism by which the Q41R mutation plays a critical role in the efficient cleavage of the substrate. Our simulations reveal that there are two major conformations of the MAVS H1 '(p) residue for the wild type protease and only one conformation for the Q41R mutant. The conformational space of H1 '(p) is restricted by the Q41R mutation due to a pi-pi stacking between H1 '(p) and R41 as well as a strong hydrogen bond between the backbone of H57 and the side chain of R41. Further QM/MM calculations indicate that the complex with the conformation ruled out by the Q41R substitution is a non-reactive species due to its higher free energy barrier for the acylation reaction. Based on our calculations, we propose a kinetic mechanism that explains experimental data showing an increase of apparent rate constants for MAVS cleavage in Q41R mutants. Our model predicts that the non-reactive conformation of the enzyme-substrate complex modulates reaction kinetics like an uncompetitive inhibitor.