Metal-binding selectivity and coordination dynamics for cyanobacterial microcystins with Zn, Cu, Fe, Mg, and Ca

Amy L. Pochodylo, Annaleise R. Klein, Ludmilla Aristilde*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Microcystins are toxic cyclic peptides produced worldwide by cyanobacteria in surface caters. The general structure of microcystin is inherently amenable to metal complexation. However, structural characterization of metal–microcystin complexes is lacking. Here we performed molecular dynamics simulations to obtain structures of aqueous complexes of microcystin–leucine–arginine and microcystin–arginine–arginine with Ca2+, Mg2+, Fe2+, Zn2+, and Cu2+. Results show that complexes with Cu2+ and Zn2+ were the most stable. Shorter metal-O atom distances result in more favorable complexes. For instance, the relatively stronger Zn–microcystin complexes have metal-Ocarboxyl distances of 1.78 Å, whereas the weaker Ca–microcystin complexes have this distance greater than 2.0 Å. Favorable metal complexation is attributed to the conformation of the microcystin peptide cavity that facilitated a specific coordination geometry of carboxyl and keto O atoms around the metal cation. Our findings imply that the cellular and extracellular roles of microcystin with respect to metal chelation are controlled both by the metal species and by the population of microcystin variants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-701
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Metal complexes
  • Microcystin
  • Modeling
  • Molecular dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry


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