Synaptotagmin (Syt) is a membrane-associated protein involved in vesicle fusion through the SNARE complex that is found throughout the human body in 17 different isoforms. These isoforms have two membrane-binding C2 domains, which sense Ca2+ and thereby promote anionic membrane binding and lead to vesicle fusion. Through molecular dynamics simulations using the highly mobile membrane mimetic acclerated bilayer model, we have investigated how small protein sequence changes in the Ca2+-binding loops of the C2 domains may give rise to the experimentally determined difference in binding kinetics between Syt-1 and Syt-7 isoforms. Syt-7 C2 domains are found to form more close contacts with anionic phospholipid headgroups, particularly in loop 1, where an additional positive charge in Syt-7 draws the loop closer to the membrane and causes the anchoring residue F167 to insert deeper into the bilayer than the corresponding methionine in Syt-1 (M173). By performing additional replica exchange umbrella sampling calculations, we demonstrate that these additional contacts increase the energetic cost of unbinding the Syt-7 C2 domains from the bilayer, causing them to unbind more slowly than their counterparts in Syt-1.
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