ATP binding cassette proteins shuttle a variety of molecules across cell membranes. The substrate transportation process is initiated by the ATP-driven dimerization of nucleotide binding domains (NBDs). Here, the integral-equation theory of liquids was applied to simulated NBD structures to analyze their dimerization process from the viewpoint of thermodynamics and the water-mediated interaction between the NBDs. It was found that a long-range hydration force of enthalpic origin drives the two NBDs to approach from a large separation. In the subsequent step, the water-mediated attraction of entropic origin brings about a structural adjustment between the two NBDs and their tighter contact.
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