Molecular Dynamics Ensemble Refinement of Intrinsically Disordered Peptides According to Deconvoluted Spectra from Circular Dichroism

We have developed a computational method of atomistically refining the structural ensemble of intrinsically disordered peptides (IDPs) facilitated by experimental measurements using circular dichroism spectroscopy (CD). A major challenge surrounding this approach stems from the deconvolution of experimental CD spectra into secondary structure features of the IDP ensemble. Currently available algorithms for CD deconvolution were designed to analyze the spectra of proteins with stable secondary structures. Herein, our work aims to minimize any bias from the peptide deconvolution analysis by implementing a non-negative linear least-squares fitting algorithm in conjunction with a CD reference data set that contains soluble and denatured proteins (SDP48). The non-negative linear least-squares method yields the best results for deconvolution of proteins with higher disordered content than currently available methods, according to a validation analysis of a set of protein spectra with Protein Data Bank entries. We subsequently used this analysis to deconvolute our experimental CD data to refine our computational model of the peptide secondary structure ensemble produced by all-atom molecular dynamics simulations with implicit solvent. We applied this approach to determine the ensemble structures of a set of short IDPs, that mimic the calmodulin binding domain of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and its 1-amino-acid and 3-amino-acid mutants. Our study offers a, to our knowledge, novel way to solve the ensemble secondary structures of IDPs in solution, which is important to advance the understanding of their roles in regulating signaling pathways through the formation of complexes with multiple partners.