Characterization of the active site of yeast RNA polymerase II by DFT and ReaxFF calculations

Rui Zhu, Florian Janetzko, Yue Zhang, Adri Van Duin, William A. Goddard, Dennis R. Salahub

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42 Scopus citations


Most known DNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RNAPs) share a universal heptapeptide, called the NADFDGD motif. The crystal structures of RNAPs indicate that in all cases this motif forms a loop with an embedded triad of aspartic acid residues. This conserved loop is the key part of the active site. Based on the crystal structures of the yeast RNAP II, we have studied this common active site for three cases: (1) single RNAP, (2) pre-translocation elongation complex, and (3) post-translocation elongation complex. Here we have applied two different modeling methods, the GGA density functional theory method (PBE) of quantum mechanics (QM) and the ReaxFF reactive force field. The QM calculations indicate that the loop shrinks from pre- to post-translocation and expands from post- to pre- translocation. In addition, PBE MD simulations in the gas phase at 310 K shows that the loop in the single-RNAP case is tightly connected to a catalytic Mg 2+ ion and that there is an ordered hydrogen bond network in the loop. The corresponding ReaxFF MD simulation presents a less stable loop structure, suggesting that ReaxFF may underestimate the coordinating interactions between carbonyl oxygen and magnesium ion compared to the gas phase QM. However, with ReaxFF it was practical to study the dynamics for a much more detailed model for the post-translocational case, including the complete loop and solvent. This leads to a plausible reactant-side model that may explain the large difference in efficiency of NTP polymerization between RNA and DNA polymerases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-489
Number of pages11
JournalTheoretical Chemistry Accounts
Issue number4-6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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