Indexed on: 15 May '15Published on: 15 May '15Published in: Angewandte Chemie International Edition
G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are important targets for treating severe diseases. However why certain molecules act as activators whereas others, with similar structures, block GPCR activation, is poorly understood since the same molecule can activate one receptor subtype while blocking another closely related receptor. To shed light on these central questions, we used all-atom, long-time-scale molecular dynamics simulations on the κ-opioid and μ-opioid receptors (κOR and μOR). We found that water molecules penetrating into the receptor interior mediate the activating versus blocking effects of a particular ligand-receptor interaction. Both the size and the flexibility of the bound ligand regulated water influx into the receptor. The solvent-accessible inner surface area was found to be a parameter that can help predict the function of the bound ligand.