Docking interactions determine early cleavage events in insulin proteolysis by pepsin: experiment and simulation

International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 2020

Authors: Kolinski Michal, Kmiecik Sebastian, Dec Robert, Piejko Marcin, Mak Pawel, Dzwolak Wojciech


In silico modeling of cascade enzymatic proteolysis is an exceedingly complex and challenging task. Here, we study partial proteolysis of insulin by pepsin: a process leading to the release of a highly amyloidogenic two chain ‘H-fragment’. The H-fragment retains several cleavage sites for pepsin. However, under favorable conditions, H-monomers rapidly self-assemble into proteolysis-resistant amyloid fibrils whose composition provides snapshots of early and intermediate stages of the proteolysis. In this work, we report a remarkable agreement of experimentally determined and simulation-predicted cleavage sites on different stages of the proteolysis. Prediction of cleavage sites was based on the comprehensive analysis of the docking interactions from direct simulation of coupled folding and binding of insulin (or its cleaved derivatives) to pepsin. The most frequent interactions were found to be between the pepsin's active site, or its direct vicinity, and the experimentally determined insulin cleavage sites, which suggest that the docking interactions govern the proteolytic process.