Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Donald Hamelberg

Second Advisor

Markus Germann

Third Advisor

Maged Henary


Although the regulation of proteins functions by allosteric interactions has been identified in many subcellular processes, long-range conformational changes in proteins are also known to be induced by molecular switches. A molecular switch based on the cis-trans isomerization of a peptidyl-prolyl bond is capable of inducing a conformational change directly to the protein backbone, which is then propagated throughout the system. However, these switches are elusive and difficult to identify due to their intrinsic dynamics in the biomolecules where they are found. Herein, we explore the conformational dynamics and free energy landscape of the SH2 domain of Interleukin-2-inducible T-Cell Kinase (ITK) to fully understand the conformational coupling between the distal cis-trans molecular switch, and its phosphotyrosine binding pocket. Using multiple microsecond-long all-atom molecular dynamics simulations in explicit water for over a total of 60 μs, we show that the cis-trans isomerization of the Asn286-Pro287 peptidyl-prolyl bond is directly correlated to the dynamics of the phosphotyrosine binding pocket, in agreement with previous NMR studies. While the cis state is localized to a single free energy basin and less dynamic, the trans state samples two distinct conformations of its binding pocket – one that recognizes the phosphotyrosine motif, and another that is similar the cis state. These results provide an atomic-level description of a less-well understood allosteric regulation by a peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans molecular switch that could aid in the understanding of normal and aberrant sub-cellular process and the identification of these elusive molecular switches in other proteins.