Electric fields can be a powerful tool to interact with enzymes or proteins, with an intriguing perspective to allow protein manipulation. Recently, researchers have focused the interest on intracellular enzyme modifications triggered by the application of nanosecond pulsed electric fields. These findings were also supported by theoretical predictions from molecular dynamics simulations focussing on significant variations in protein secondary structures. In this work, a theoretical study utilizing molecular dynamics simulations is proposed to explore effects of electric fields of high intensity and very short nanosecond duration applied to the superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn-SOD or SOD-1), an important enzyme involved in the cellular antioxidant defence mechanism. The effects of 100-nanosecond pulsed electric fields, with intensities ranging from 108 to 7x108 V/m, on a single SOD1 enzyme are presented. We demonstrated that the lowest intensity of 108 V/m, although not inducing structural changes, can produce electrostatic modifications on the reaction centre of the enzyme, as apparent from the dipolar response and the electric field distribution of the protein active site. Electric pulses above 5x108 V/m produced a fast transition between the folded and a partially denatured state, as inferred by the secondary structures analysis. Finally, for the highest field intensity used (7x108 V/m), a not reversible transition toward an unfolded state was observed.
Nanosecond pulsed electric signals can affect electrostatic environment of proteins below the threshold of conformational effects: The case study of SOD1 with a molecular simulation study / della Valle, E.; Marracino, P.; Pakhomova, O.; Liberti, M.; Apollonio, F.. - In: PLOS ONE. - ISSN 1932-6203. - 14:8(2019), p. e0221685. [10.1371/journal.pone.0221685]