Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Donald Hamelberg

Second Advisor

Dr. David Wilson

Third Advisor

Dr. Stuart Allison

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Giovanni Gadda


Cyclophilins are ubiquitous enzymes that are involved in protein folding, signal transduction, viral proliferation, oncogenesis, and regulation of the immune system. Cyclophilin A is the prototype of the cyclophilin family. We use molecular dynamics to describe the catalytic mechanism of cyclophilin A in full atomistic detail by sampling critical points along the reaction coordinate, and use accelerated molecular dynamics to sample cis-trans interconversions. At these critical points, we analyze the conformational space sampled by the active site, flexibility of the enzyme backbone, and modulation of binding interactions.We use Kramer’s rate theory to determine how diffusion and free energy contribute to lowering the activation energy of prolyl isomerization. We also find preferential binding modes of several cyclophiln A inhibitors, and compare the conformational space sampled by inhibited cyclophilin A to the conformational space sampled during wild-type interactions. We also analyze the mechanism of the next family member cyclophilin B in order to probe differences in enzyme dynamics and intermolecular interactions that could possibly be exploited in isoform-specific drug design. Our results indicate that cyclophilin proceeds by a conformational selection binding mechanism that manipulates substrate sterics, electrostatic interactions, and multiple reaction timescales in order to speed up reaction rate. Conformational space sampled by cyclophilin when inhibited and when undergoing wild-type interactions share significant similarity. Cyclophilins A and B do have notable differences in enzyme dynamics, due to variation in intramolecular interactions that arise from variation in primary structures. This work demonstrates how computational methods can be used to clarify catalytic mechanisms.