Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on the complex of imatinib with the wild-type, T315I, and other 10 P-loop mutants of the tyrosine kinase Bcr-Abl have been performed to study the imatinib resistance mechanism at the atomic level. MD simulations show that large scale computational simulations could offer insight information that a static structure or simple homology modeling methods cannot provide for studying the Bcr-Abl imatinib resistance problem, especially in the case of conformational changes due to remote mutations. By utilizing the Molecular Mechanics/Poisson-Boltzmann surface area (MM-PBSA) techniques and analyzing the interactions between imatinib and individual residues, imatinib resistance mechanisms not previously thought have been revealed. Non-directly contacted P-loop mutations either unfavorably change the direct electrostatic interactions with imatinib, or cause the conformational changes influencing the contact energies between imatinib and other non-P-loop residues. We demonstrate that imatinib resistance of T315I mainly comes from the breakdown of the interactions between imatinib and E286 and M290, contradictory to previously suggested that the missing hydrogen bonding is the main contribution. We also demonstrate that except for the mutations of the direct contact residues, such as L248 and Y253, the unfavorable electrostatic interaction between P-loop and imatinib is the main reason for resistance for the P-loop mutations. Furthermore, in Y255H, protonation of the histidin is essential for rendering this mutation resistant to Gleevec. Our results demonstrate that MD is a powerful way to verify and predict clinical response or resistance to imatinib and other potential drugs.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.