Toward Understanding Mcl-1 Promiscuous and Specific Binding Mode. Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling 2017, 57 (11), 2885-2895.

Mcl-1, which is an anti-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 protein family, is overexpressed in various cancers and promotes the aberrant survival of tumor cells. To inhibit Mcl-1, and initiate apoptosis, an interaction between BH3-only proteins and Mcl-1 anti-apoptotic protein is necessary. These protein-protein interactions exhibit some selectivity: Mcl-1 binds specifically to Noxa, whereas Bim and Puma bind strongly to all anti-apoptotic proteins. Even if the three-dimensional (3D) structures of several Mcl-1/BH3-only complexes have been solved, the BH3-only binding specificity to Mcl-1 is still not completely understood. In this study, molecular dynamics simulations were used to elucidate the molecular basis of the interactions with Mcl-1. Our results corroborate the importance of four conserved hydrophobic residues and a conserved aspartic acid on BH3-only as a common binding pattern. Furthermore, our results highlight the contribution of the fifth hydrophobic residue in the C-terminal part and a negatively charged patch in the N-terminal of BH3-only peptides as important for their fixation to Mcl-1. We hypothesize that this negatively charged patch will be an Mcl-1 specific binding pattern.