Computational studies and peptidomimetic design for the human p53-MDM2 complex

Haizhen Zhong, Heather A. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The interaction between human p53 and MDM2 is a key event in controlling cell growth. Many studies have suggested that a p53 mimic would be sufficient to inhibit MDM2 to reduce cell growth in cancerous tissue. In order to design a potent p53 mimic, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to examine the binding interface and the effect of mutating key residues in the human p53-MDM2 complex. The Generalized Born surface area (GBSA) method was used to estimate free energies of binding, and a computational alanine-scanning approach was used to calculate the relative effects in the free energy of binding for key mutations. Our calculations determine the free energy of binding for a model p53-MDM2 complex to be -7.4 kcal/mol, which is in very good agreement with the experimentally determined values (-6.6-8.8 kcal/mol). The alanine-scanning results are in good agreement with experimental data and calculations by other groups. We have used the information from our studies of human p53-MDM2 to design a β-peptide mimic of p53. MD simulations of the mimic bound to MDM2 estimate a free energy of binding of -8.8 kcal/mol. We have also applied alanine scanning to the mimic-MDM2 complex and reveal which mutations are most likely to alter the binding affinity, possibly giving rise to escape mutants. The mimic was compared to nutlins, a new class of inhibitors that block the formation of the p53-MDM2 complex. There are interesting similarities between the nutlins and our mimic, and the differences point to ways that both inhibitors may be improved. Finally, an additional hydrophobic pocket is noted in the interior of MDM2. It may be possible to design new inhibitors to take advantage of that pocket.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-234
Number of pages13
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Escape mutants
  • Free energy calculation
  • HDM2
  • Inhibitor
  • Molecular dynamics simulation
  • Protein mimic
  • β-peptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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