Exploring the Implications of Vitamin B12 Conjugation to Insulin on Insulin Receptor Binding and Cellular Uptake

In press, in the journal ChemMedChem (and, because I think it’s hip, I note that the current “obligatory” image for the wikipedia article for ChemMedChem features the image I made for the review article on the topic addressed in this new study). As with many theory papers (there’s some experiment in there, too), this very brief article summarizes several months of cyanocobalamin (B12) parameterization and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The purpose of the theory was to address all of the major structural snapshots in the uptake process associated with the insulin-B12 bioconjugate being developed as part of the much heralded oral insulin project in Robert Doyle’s group here at Syracuse. These structures include:

1. The structure and dynamic properties of the insulin-B12 bioconjugate
2. The binding of B12 to Transcobalamin II (TCII) (for B12 parameterization)
3. The binding of the insulin-B12 bioconjugate to TCII (and the steric demands therein)
4. The interaction of the insulin-B12 bioconjugate, bound to TCII, with the insulin Receptor (IR)

The quantum chemical (for the B12 geometry and missing force constants) and molecular dynamics (GROMACS with the GROMOS96 (53a6)) simulation work is going to serve as the basis for several posts here (eventually) about parameterization, topology generation, and force field development.

As an example of some of the insights modeling provides, the figure above shows the insulin-B12 bioconjugate (the insulin is divided into A and B chains, the A chain in blue and the important division of the insulin B chain in the front half of the rainbow). Insulin is a rather large-scale example of many of the same molecular issues that arise in the analysis of solid-state molecular crystals by either terahertz or inelastic neutron scattering spectroscopy. The packing of molecules in their crystal lattices can lead to significant changes in molecular geometry, be these changes in the stabilization of higher-energy molecular conformations or even deformations in the covalent framework. In the case of insulin, it is found that the crystal geometry (also the geometry of stored insulin in the body) is quite different from the solution-phase form. It’s even worse! The B chain end (B20-B30) in the solid-state geometry covers (protects?) the business-end of the insulin binding region to the Insulin Receptor. One can imagine the difficulty in proposing the original binding model for insulin to its receptor from the original crystal data given that the actual binding region is blocked off in the solid-state form! The “Extended” form in the figure is representative of “multiple other” conformations of the B20-B30 region (which mimics the characterized T-state of insulin), those geometries for which the insulin binding region (blue and green) is completely exposed. This extended geometry is also the one that separates the bulk of the insulin structure from the covalently-linked B12 (at Lys29) and, it is argued from the MD simulations in the paper, enables the B12 to still tightly bind to TCII despite the presence of all this steric bulk.

Amanda K. Petrus1, Damian G. Allis1, Robert P. Smith2, Timothy J. Fairchild3 and Robert P. Doyle1

1. Department of Chemistry, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA
2. Department of Construction Management and Wood Products Engineering, SUNY, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA
3. Department of Exercise Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA

Extract: We recently reported a vitamin B12 (B12) based insulin conjugate that produced significantly decreased blood glucose levels in diabetic STZ-rat models. The results of this study posed a fundamental question, namely what implications does B12 conjugation have on insulin’s interaction with its receptor? To explore this question we used a combination of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and immuno-electron microscopy (IEM).