J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2021), 143, 22, 8333–8343.
Conformational Ensembles of Non-Coding Elements in the SARS-CoV-2 Genome from Molecular Dynamics Simulations
The 5′ untranslated region (UTR) of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genome is a conserved, functional and structured genomic region consisting of several RNA stem-loop elements. While the secondary structure of such elements has been determined experimentally, their three-dimensional structures are not known yet. Here, we predict structure and dynamics of five RNA stem loops in the 5′-UTR of SARS-CoV-2 by extensive atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, more than 0.5 ms of aggregate simulation time, in combination with enhanced sampling techniques. We compare simulations with available experimental data, describe the resulting conformational ensembles, and identify the presence of specific structural rearrangements in apical and internal loops that may be functionally relevant. Our atomic-detailed structural predictions reveal a rich dynamics in these RNA molecules, could help the experimental characterization of these systems, and provide putative three-dimensional models for structure-based drug design studies.