Theses and Dissertations

ORCID 0000-0002-7613-8183

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Gwaltney, Steven R.

Committee Member

Mlsna, Debra A.

Committee Member

Emerson, Joseph P.

Committee Member

Fitzkee, Nicholas C.

Committee Member

Wipf, David O.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


In this thesis, we have employed two computational methods, molecular dynamics (MD) and hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) MD simulations with umbrella sampling (US), to gain insights into the molecular mechanism governing the molecular recognition and reactivity in several protein-ligand complexes. Three systems involving protein-ligand interactions are examined in this dissertation utilizing well-established computational methodologies and mathematical modeling. The three proteins studied here are acetylcholinesterase (AChE), butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), and peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase NIMA-interacting 1 (PIN1). These enzymes are known to interact with a variety of ligands. AChE dysfunction caused by organophosphorus (OP) chemicals is a severe hazard since AChE is a critical enzyme in neurotransmission. Oximes are chemical compounds that can reactivate inhibited AChE; hence in the development of better oximes, it is critical to understand the mechanism through which OPs block AChE. We have described the covalent inhibition mechanism between AChE and the OP insecticide phorate oxon and its more potent metabolites and established their free energy profiles using QM/MM MD-US for the first time. Our results suggest a concerted mechanism and provide insights into the challenges in reactivating phorate oxon inhibited AChE. Reactivating BChE is another therapeutic approach to detoxifying circulating OP molecules before reaching the target AChE. We explored the covalent modification of BChE with phorate oxon and its metabolites using hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) umbrella sampling simulations (PM6/ff14SB) for the inhibition process. Our results reveal that the mechanism is distinct between the inhibitors. The PM6 methodology is a good predictor of these compounds' potency, which may efficiently help study OPs like phorate oxon with larger leaving groups. Finally, we investigated the interactions between Peptidyl-prolyl isomerase (PPIase), which consists of a peptidyl isomerase (PPIase) domain flexibly tethered to a smaller Trp-Trp (WW) protein-binding domain, and chimeric peptides based on the human histone H1.4 sequence (KATGAApTPKKSAKW), as well as the effects on inter-domain dynamics. Using explicit solvent MD simulations, simulated annealing, and native contact analysis, our modeling sugget that the residues in the N-terminal immediate to the pSer/Thr Pro site connect the PPIase and WW domains via a series of hydrogen bonds and native contacts.