In performing their biological functions, molecular machines must process and transmit information with high fidelity. Information transmission requires dynamic coupling between the conformations of discrete structural components within the protein positioned far from one another on the molecular scale. This type of biomolecular “action at a distance” is termed allostery
. Although allostery is ubiquitous in biological regulation and signal transduction, its treatment in theoretical models has mostly eschewed quantitative descriptions involving the system’s underlying structural components and their interactions. Here, we show how Ising models can be used to formulate an approach to allostery in a structural context of interactions between the constitutive components by building simple allosteric constructs we termed Allosteric Ising Models
(AIMs). We introduce the use of AIMs in analytical and numerical calculations that relate thermodynamic descriptions of allostery to the structural context, and then show that many fundamental properties of allostery, such as the multiplicative property of parallel allosteric channels, are revealed from the analysis of such models. The power of exploring mechanistic structural models of allosteric function in more complex systems by using AIMs is demonstrated by building a model of allosteric signaling for an experimentally well-characterized asymmetric homodimer of the dopamine D2 receptor.
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