Delineating the conformational flexibility of trisaccharides from NMR spectroscopy experiments and computer simulations†
The conformation of saccharides in solution is challenging to characterize in the context of a single well-defined three-dimensional structure. Instead, they are better represented by an ensemble of conformations associated with their structural diversity and flexibility. In this study, we delineate the conformational heterogeneity of five trisaccharides via a combination of experimental and computational techniques. Experimental NMR measurements target conformationally sensitive parameters, including J couplings and effective distances around the glycosidic linkages, while the computational simulations apply the well-calibrated additive CHARMM carbohydrate force field in combination with efficient enhanced sampling molecular dynamics simulation methods. Analysis of conformational heterogeneity is performed based on sampling of discreet states as defined by dihedral angles, on root-mean-square differences of Cartesian coordinates and on the extent of volume sampled. Conformational clustering, based on the glycosidic linkage dihedral angles, shows that accounting for the full range of sampled conformations is required to reproduce the experimental data, emphasizing the utility of the molecular simulations in obtaining an atomic detailed description of the conformational properties of the saccharides. Results show the presence of differential conformational preferences as a function of primary sequence and glycosidic linkage types. Significant differences in conformational ensembles associated with the anomeric configuration of a single glycosidic linkage reinforce the impact of such changes on the conformational properties of carbohydrates. The present structural insights of the studied trisaccharides represent a foundation for understanding the range of conformations adopted in larger oligosaccharides and how these molecules encode their conformational heterogeneity into the monosaccharide sequence.