ToxIN is a triangular structure formed by three protein toxins (ToxNs) and three specific noncoding RNA antitoxins (ToxIs). To respond to stimuli, ToxI is preferentially degraded, releasing the ToxN. Thus, the dynamic character is essential in the normal function interactions between ToxN and ToxI. Here, equilibrated molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were performed to study the stability of ToxN and ToxI. The results indicate that ToxI adjusts the conformation of 3′ and 5′ termini to bind to ToxN. Steered molecular dynamics (SMD) simulations combined with the recently developed thermodynamic integration in 3nD (TI3nD) method were carried out to investigate ToxN unbinding from the ToxIN complex. The potentials of mean force (PMFs) and atomistic pictures suggest the unbinding mechanism as follows: (1) dissociation of the 5′ terminus from ToxN, (2) missing the interactions involved in the 3′ terminus of ToxI without three nucleotides (G31, A32, and A33), (3) starting to unfold for ToxI, (4) leaving the binding package of ToxN for three nucleotides of ToxI, (5) unfolding of ToxI. This work provides information on the structure-function relationship at the atomistic level, which is helpful for designing new potent antibacterial drugs in the future.
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