Multisite phosphorylation is an important mechanism of post-translational control of protein kinases. The effects of combinations of possible phosphorylation states on protein kinase activity are difficult to study experimentally because of challenges in isolating a particular phosphorylation state; surprising little effort on this topic has been expended in computational studies. To understand the effects of multisite phosphorylation on the plant protein kinase brassinosteroid insensitive 1-associated kinase 1 (BAK1) conformational ensemble, we performed Gaussian accelerated molecular dynamics simulations on eight BAK1 mod-forms involving phosphorylation of the four activation-loop threonine residues and binding of ATP-Mg2+. We find that unphosphorylated BAK1 transitions into an inactive conformation with a “cracked” activation loop and with the αC helix swung away from the active site. T450 phosphorylation can prevent the activation loop from cracking and keep the αC helix in an active-like conformation, whereas phosphorylation of T455 only slightly stabilizes the activation loop. There is a general trend of reduced flexibility in interlobe motion with increased phosphorylation. Interestingly, the αC helix is destabilized when the activation loop is fully phosphorylated but is again stabilized with ATP-Mg2+ bound. Our results provide insight into the mechanism of phosphorylation-controlled BAK1 activation while at the same time represent the first, to our knowledge, comprehensive, comparative study of the effects of combinatorial phosphorylation states on protein kinase conformational dynamics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas