Professional Education

  • Doctor, Yale University (2018)

All Publications

  • Development and Testing of the OPLS-AA/M Force Field for RNA. Journal of chemical theory and computation Robertson, M. J., Qian, Y., Robinson, M. C., Tirado-Rives, J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2019


    Significant improvements have been made to the OPLS-AA force field for modeling RNA. New torsional potentials were optimized based on density functional theory (DFT) scans at the omegaB97X-D/6-311++G(d,p) level for potential energy surfaces of the backbone alpha and gamma dihedral angles. In combination with previously reported improvements for the sugar puckering and glycosidic torsion terms, the new force field was validated through diverse molecular dynamics simulations for RNAs in aqueous solution. Results for dinucleotides and tetranucleotides revealed both accurate reproduction of 3 J couplings from NMR and the avoidance of several unphysical states observed with other force fields. Simulations of larger systems with noncanonical motifs showed significant structural improvements over the previous OPLS-AA parameters. The new force field, OPLS-AA/M, is expected to perform competitively with other recent RNA force fields and to be compatible with OPLS-AA models for proteins and small molecules.

    View details for PubMedID 30807148

  • Structural insights into the activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors. Nature Koehl, A., Hu, H., Feng, D., Sun, B., Zhang, Y., Robertson, M. J., Chu, M., Kobilka, T. S., Laermans, T., Steyaert, J., Tarrasch, J., Dutta, S., Fonseca, R., Weis, W. I., Mathiesen, J. M., Skiniotis, G., Kobilka, B. K. 2019


    Metabotropic glutamate receptors are family C G-protein-coupled receptors. They form obligate dimers and possess extracellular ligand-binding Venus flytrap domains, which are linked by cysteine-rich domains to their 7-transmembrane domains. Spectroscopic studies show that signalling is a dynamic process, in which large-scale conformational changes underlie the transmission of signals from the extracellular Venus flytraps to the G protein-coupling domains-the 7-transmembrane domains-in the membrane. Here, using a combination of X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy and signalling studies, we present a structural framework for the activation mechanism of metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5. Our results show that agonist binding at the Venus flytraps leads to a compaction of the intersubunit dimer interface, thereby bringing the cysteine-rich domains into close proximity. Interactions between the cysteine-rich domains and the second extracellular loops of the receptor enable the rigid-body repositioning of the 7-transmembrane domains, which come into contact with each other to initiate signalling.

    View details for PubMedID 30675062

  • Structures of the M1 and M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor/G-protein complexes. Science (New York, N.Y.) Maeda, S., Qu, Q., Robertson, M. J., Skiniotis, G., Kobilka, B. K. 2019; 364 (6440): 552–57


    Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors are G protein-coupled receptors that respond to acetylcholine and play important signaling roles in the nervous system. There are five muscarinic receptor subtypes (M1R to M5R), which, despite sharing a high degree of sequence identity in the transmembrane region, couple to different heterotrimeric GTP-binding proteins (G proteins) to transmit signals. M1R, M3R, and M5R couple to the Gq/11 family, whereas M2R and M4R couple to the Gi/o family. Here, we present and compare the cryo-electron microscopy structures of M1R in complex with G11 and M2R in complex with GoA The M1R-G11 complex exhibits distinct features, including an extended transmembrane helix 5 and carboxyl-terminal receptor tail that interacts with G protein. Detailed analysis of these structures provides a framework for understanding the molecular determinants of G-protein coupling selectivity.

    View details for PubMedID 31073061

  • Development and Validation of the Quantum Mechanical Bespoke Protein Force Field. ACS omega Allen, A. E., Robertson, M. J., Payne, M. C., Cole, D. J. 2019; 4 (11): 14537–50


    Molecular mechanics force field parameters for macromolecules, such as proteins, are traditionally fit to reproduce experimental properties of small molecules, and thus, they neglect system-specific polarization. In this paper, we introduce a complete protein force field that is designed to be compatible with the quantum mechanical bespoke (QUBE) force field by deriving nonbonded parameters directly from the electron density of the specific protein under study. The main backbone and sidechain protein torsional parameters are rederived in this work by fitting to quantum mechanical dihedral scans for compatibility with QUBE nonbonded parameters. Software is provided for the preparation of QUBE input files. The accuracy of the new force field, and the derived torsional parameters, is tested by comparing the conformational preferences of a range of peptides and proteins with experimental measurements. Accurate backbone and sidechain conformations are obtained in molecular dynamics simulations of dipeptides, with NMR J coupling errors comparable to the widely used OPLS force field. In simulations of five folded proteins, the secondary structure is generally retained, and the NMR J coupling errors are similar to standard transferable force fields, although some loss of the experimental structure is observed in certain regions of the proteins. With several avenues for further development, the use of system-specific nonbonded force field parameters is a promising approach for next-generation simulations of biological molecules.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acsomega.9b01769

    View details for PubMedID 31528808

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6740169

  • Structure of a Signaling Cannabinoid Receptor 1-G Protein Complex. Cell Krishna Kumar, K., Shalev-Benami, M., Robertson, M. J., Hu, H., Banister, S. D., Hollingsworth, S. A., Latorraca, N. R., Kato, H. E., Hilger, D., Maeda, S., Weis, W. I., Farrens, D. L., Dror, R. O., Malhotra, S. V., Kobilka, B. K., Skiniotis, G. 2018


    Cannabis elicits its mood-enhancing and analgesic effects through the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), aG protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that signals primarily through the adenylyl cyclase-inhibiting heterotrimeric G protein Gi. Activation of CB1-Gi signaling pathways holds potential for treating a number of neurological disorders and is thus crucial to understand the mechanism of Gi activation by CB1. Here, we present the structure of the CB1-Gi signaling complex bound to the highly potent agonist MDMB-Fubinaca (FUB), a recently emerged illicit synthetic cannabinoid infused in street drugs that have been associated with numerous overdoses and fatalities. The structure illustrates how FUB stabilizes the receptor in an active state to facilitate nucleotide exchange in Gi. The results compose the structural framework to explain CB1 activation by different classes of ligands and provide insights into the G protein coupling and selectivity mechanisms adopted by the receptor.

    View details for PubMedID 30639101

  • Optimization of Pyrazoles as Phenol Surrogates to Yield Potent Inhibitors of Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor. ChemMedChem Trivedi-Parmar, V., Robertson, M. J., Cisneros, J. A., Krimmer, S. G., Jorgensen, W. L. 2018; 13 (11): 1092–97


    Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a proinflammatory cytokine that is implicated in the regulation of inflammation, cell proliferation, and neurological disorders. MIF is also an enzyme that functions as a keto-enol tautomerase. Most potent MIF tautomerase inhibitors incorporate a phenol, which hydrogen bonds to Asn97 in the active site. Starting from a 113-mum docking hit, we report results of structure-based and computer-aided design that have provided substituted pyrazoles as phenol alternatives with potencies of 60-70 nm. Crystal structures of complexes of MIF with the pyrazoles highlight the contributions of hydrogen bonding with Lys32 and Asn97, and aryl-aryl interactions with Tyr36, Tyr95, and Phe113 to the binding.

    View details for PubMedID 29575754

  • Molecular Dynamics Simulations of a Conformationally Mobile Peptide-Based Catalyst for Atroposelective Bromination. ACS catalysis Yan, X. C., Metrano, A. J., Robertson, M. J., Abascal, N. C., Tirado-Rives, J., Miller, S. J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2018; 8 (11): 9968–79


    It is widely accepted that structural rigidity is required to achieve high levels of asymmetric induction in catalytic, enantioselective reactions. This fundamental design principle often does not apply to highly selective catalytic peptides that often exhibit conformational heterogeneity. As a result, these complex systems are particularly challenging to study both experimentally and computationally. Herein, we utilize molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the role of conformational mobility on the reactivity and selectivity exhibited by a catalytic, β-turn-biased peptide in an atroposelective bromination reaction. By means of cluster analysis, multiple distinct conformers of the peptide and a catalyst-substrate complex were identified in the simulations, all of which were corroborated by experimental NMR measurements. The simulations also revealed that a shift in the conformational equilibrium of the peptidic catalyst occurs upon addition of substrate, and the degree of change varies among different substrates. On the basis of these data, we propose a correlation between the composition of the peptide conformational ensemble and its catalytic properties. Moreover, these findings highlight the importance of conformational dynamics in catalytic, asymmetric reactions mediated by oligopeptides, unveiled through high-level, state-of-the-art computational modeling.

    View details for PubMedID 30687577

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6342276

  • Adding a Hydrogen Bond May Not Help: Naphthyridinone vs Quinoline Inhibitors of Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor ACS MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS Dawson, T. K., Dziedzic, P., Robertson, M. J., Cisneros, J. A., Krimmer, S. G., Newton, A. S., Tirado-Rives, J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2017; 8 (12): 1287–91


    Coordination of the ammonium group of Lys32 in the active site of human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) using a 1,7-naphthyridin-8-one instead of a quinoline is investigated. Both gas- and aqueous-phase DFT calculations for model systems indicate potential benefits for the added hydrogen bond with the lactam carbonyl group, while FEP results are neutral. Three crystal structures are reported for complexes of MIF with 3a, 4a, and 4b, which show that the desired hydrogen bond is formed with O-N distances of 2.8-3.0 Å. Compound 4b is the most potent new MIF inhibitor with Ki and Kd values of 90 and 94 nM; it also has excellent aqueous solubility, 288 μg/mL. Consistent with the FEP results, the naphthyridinones are found to have similar potency as related quinolines in spite of the additional protein-ligand hydrogen bond.

    View details for PubMedID 29259749

  • Improved treatment of nucleosides and nucleotides in the OPLS-AA force field CHEMICAL PHYSICS LETTERS Robertson, M. J., Tirado-Rives, J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2017; 683: 276–80


    DFT calculations have been used to develop improved descriptions of the torsional energetics for nucleosides and nucleotides in the OPLS-AA force field. Scans of nucleotide dihedral angles (γ, χ, and β) and methyl phosphates provided the bases for the new torsional parameters. In addition, the angle-bending parameters of phosphodiesters and ribose were updated, and adjustments were made to existing carbohydrate torsions to better capture the sugar puckering landscape of ribose. MD simulations of nucleosides with the new parameters demonstrate a significant improvement in the ribose sugar puckering and χ angle distributions. Additionally, energy-minimization of protein-nucleotide crystal structures with the new parameters produced accurate poses.

    View details for PubMedID 29479109

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5821430

  • Systematic Study of Effects of Structural Modifications on the Aqueous Solubility of Drug-like Molecules ACS MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS Cisneros, J. A., Robertson, M. J., Mercado, B. Q., Jorgensen, W. L. 2017; 8 (1): 124-127


    Aqueous solubilities and activities have been measured for 17 members of the quinolinyltriazole series of inhibitors of human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). Systematic variation of a solvent-exposed substituent provided increases in solubility from 2 μg/mL for the parent compound3aup to 867 μg/mL. The low solubility of3aresults from its near-planar structure and an intermolecular hydrogen bond, as revealed in a small-molecule X-ray structure. Removal of the hydrogen bond yields a 3-fold increase in solubility, but a 7-fold drop in activity.5bemerges as the most potent MIF inhibitor with aKiof 14 nM and good solubility, 47 μg/mL, while4ehas both high potency and solubility.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.6b00451

    View details for PubMedID 28105287

  • Improved Description of Sulfur Charge Anisotropy in OPLS Force Fields: Model Development and Parameterization. The journal of physical chemistry. B Yan, X. C., Robertson, M. J., Tirado-Rives, J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2017; 121 (27): 6626–36


    The atomic point-charge model used in most molecular mechanics force fields does not represent well the electronic anisotropy that is featured in many directional noncovalent interactions. Sulfur participates in several types of such interactions with its lone pairs and σ-holes. The current study develops a new model, via the addition of off-atom charged sites, for a variety of sulfur compounds in the OPLS-AA and OPLS/CM5 force fields to address the lack of charge anisotropy. Parameter optimization is carried out to reproduce liquid-state properties, torsional and noncovalent energetics from reliable quantum mechanical calculations, and electrostatic potentials. Significant improvements are obtained for computed free energies of hydration, reducing the mean unsigned errors from ca. 1.4 to 0.4-0.7 kcal/mol. Enhanced accuracy in directionality and energetics is also obtained for molecular complexes with sulfur-containing hydrogen and halogen bonds. Moreover, the new model reproduces the unusual conformational preferences of sulfur-containing compounds with 1,4-intramolecular chalcogen bonds. Transferability of the new force field parameters to cysteine and methionine is verified via molecular dynamic simulations of blocked dipeptides. The study demonstrates the effectiveness of using off-atom charge sites to address electronic anisotropy, and provides a parametrization methodology that can be applied to other systems.

    View details for PubMedID 28627890

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5816952

  • Performance of Protein-Ligand Force Fields for the Flavodoxin-Flavin Mononucleotide System JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS Robertson, M. J., Tirado-Rives, J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2016; 7 (15): 3032-3036


    The ability to accurately perform molecular dynamics and free energy perturbation calculations for protein-ligand systems is of broad interest to the biophysical and pharmaceutical sciences. In this work, several popular force fields are evaluated for reproducing experimental properties of the flavodoxin/flavin mononucleotide system. Calculated (3)J couplings from molecular dynamics simulations probing φ and χ1 dihedral angles are compared to over 1000 experimental measurements. Free energy perturbation calculations were also executed between different protein mutants for comparison with experimental data for relative free energies of binding. Newer versions of popular protein force fields reproduced (3)J backbone and side chain couplings with good accuracy, with RMSD values near or below one hertz in most cases. OPLS-AA/M paired with CM5 charges for the ligand performed particularly well, both for the (3)J couplings and FEP results, with a mean unsigned error for relative free energies of binding of 0.36 kcal/mol.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.jpclett.6b01229

    View details for Web of Science ID 000381236400026

    View details for PubMedID 27441982

  • A Fluorescence Polarization Assay for Binding to Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor and Crystal Structures for Complexes of Two Potent Inhibitors JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY Cisneros, J. A., Robertson, M. J., Valhondo, M., Jorgensen, W. L. 2016; 138 (27): 8630-8638


    Human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is both a keto-enol tautomerase and a cytokine associated with numerous inflammatory diseases and cancer. Consistent with observed correlations between inhibition of the enzymatic and biological activities, discovery of MIF inhibitors has focused on monitoring the tautomerase activity using l-dopachrome methyl ester or 4-hydroxyphenyl pyruvic acid as substrates. The accuracy of these assays is compromised by several issues including substrate instability, spectral interference, and short linear periods for product formation. In this work, we report the syntheses of fluorescently labeled MIF inhibitors and their use in the first fluorescence polarization-based assay to measure the direct binding of inhibitors to the active site. The assay allows the accurate and efficient identification of competitive, noncompetitive, and covalent inhibitors of MIF in a manner that can be scaled for high-throughput screening. The results for 22 compounds show that the most potent MIF inhibitors bind with Kd values of ca. 50 nM; two are from our laboratory, and the other is a compound from the patent literature. X-ray crystal structures for two of the most potent compounds bound to MIF are also reported here. Striking combinations of protein-ligand hydrogen bonding, aryl-aryl, and cation-π interactions are responsible for the high affinities. A new chemical series was then designed using this knowledge to yield two more strong MIF inhibitors/binders.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/jacs.6b04910

    View details for Web of Science ID 000379794400049

    View details for PubMedID 27299179

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4945996

  • Irregularities in enzyme assays: The case of macrophage migration inhibitory factor BIOORGANIC & MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS Cisneros, J. A., Robertson, M. J., Valhondo, M., Jorgensen, W. L. 2016; 26 (12): 2764-2767


    Inhibitors of human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) previously reported in the literature have been reexamined by synthesis, assaying for tautomerase activity, and protein crystallography. Substantial inconsistencies between prior and current assay results are noted. They appear to arise from difficulties with the tautomerase substrates, solubility issues, and especially covalent inhibition. Incubation time variation shows that 3, 4, 6, and 9 are covalent or slow-binding inhibitors. Two protein crystal structures are provided; one confirms that the twice-discovered 3 is a covalent inhibitor.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bmcl.2016.04.074

    View details for Web of Science ID 000376728200004

    View details for PubMedID 27156768

  • Illustrating Concepts in Physical Organic Chemistry with 3D Printed Orbitals JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL EDUCATION Robertson, M. J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2015; 92 (12): 2113-2116
  • Improved Peptide and Protein Torsional Energetics with the OPLS-AA Force Field JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL THEORY AND COMPUTATION Robertson, M. J., Tirado-Rives, J., Jorgensen, W. L. 2015; 11 (7): 3499-3509


    The development and validation of new peptide dihedral parameters are reported for the OPLS-AA force field. High accuracy quantum chemical methods were used to scan φ, ψ, χ1, and χ2 potential energy surfaces for blocked dipeptides. New Fourier coefficients for the dihedral angle terms of the OPLS-AA force field were fit to these surfaces, utilizing a Boltzmann-weighted error function and systematically examining the effects of weighting temperature. To prevent overfitting to the available data, a minimal number of new residue-specific and peptide-specific torsion terms were developed. Extensive experimental solution-phase and quantum chemical gas-phase benchmarks were used to assess the quality of the new parameters, named OPLS-AA/M, demonstrating significant improvement over previous OPLS-AA force fields. A Boltzmann weighting temperature of 2000 K was determined to be optimal for fitting the new Fourier coefficients for dihedral angle parameters. Conclusions are drawn from the results for best practices for developing new torsion parameters for protein force fields.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.jctc.5b00356

    View details for Web of Science ID 000358104800058

    View details for PubMedID 26190950

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4504185

  • Design, Synthesis, and Protein Crystallography of Biaryltriazoles as Potent Tautomerase Inhibitors of Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY Dziedzic, P., Cisneros, J. A., Robertson, M. J., Hare, A. A., Danford, N. E., Baxter, R. H., Jorgensen, W. L. 2015; 137 (8): 2996-3003


    Optimization is reported for biaryltriazoles as inhibitors of the tautomerase activity of human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), a proinflammatory cytokine associated with numerous inflammatory diseases and cancer. A combined approach was taken featuring organic synthesis, enzymatic assaying, crystallography, and modeling including free-energy perturbation (FEP) calculations. X-ray crystal structures for 3a and 3b bound to MIF are reported and provided a basis for the modeling efforts. The accommodation of the inhibitors in the binding site is striking with multiple hydrogen bonds and aryl-aryl interactions. Additional modeling encouraged pursuit of 5-phenoxyquinolinyl analogues, which led to the very potent compound 3s. Activity was further enhanced by addition of a fluorine atom adjacent to the phenolic hydroxyl group as in 3w, 3z, 3aa, and 3bb to strengthen a key hydrogen bond. It is also shown that physical properties of the compounds can be modulated by variation of solvent-exposed substituents. Several of the compounds are likely the most potent known MIF tautomerase inhibitors; the most active ones are more than 1000-fold more active than the well-studied (R)-ISO-1 and more than 200-fold more active than the chromen-4-one Orita-13.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/ja512112j

    View details for Web of Science ID 000350614700033

    View details for PubMedID 25697265