Follicle-stimulating hormone encapsulation in the cholesterol-modified chitosan nanoparticles via molecular dynamics simulations and binding free energy calculations

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Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is widely applied in the modern ovarian stimulation techniques. However, it must be administered daily because of its short half-life. Recently, the cholesterol (CS) modified chitosan (CTS) nanogels have attracted significant interest as promising controlled release protein delivery because of their ability to minimize the aggregation and irreversible denaturation of proteins. Herein, we report a molecular dynamics (MD) simulation investigation on the molecular mechanisms of FSH encapsulation in the CS-CTS nanogels. The MD simulations have been performed using the GROMACS software for up to 200 ns simulation time. Furthermore, the binding free energy has been calculated by the molecular mechanics [MM] with Poisson-Boltzmann [PB] and surface area solvation (MM/PBSA) method by using the g_mmpbsa tool. Our findings suggest that the main driving force of the formation of the CS-CTS nanogels is the hydrophobic interactions between the CS–CS moieties in water. The results have also indicated that the CS-CTS nanogel formation can occur through the hydrogen bonding in addition to the hydrophobic interactions. The obtained data demonstrate that the FSH encapsulation into the CS-CTS nanogels is a gradual process driven by the hydrophobic interactions between the hydrophobic patch of FSH and the hydrophobic nanodomains of the nanogel. Our results also reveal that except in the hydrophobic patch region, the flexibility of FSH was reduced in the presence of the nanogel. This study provides the elucidation of the nanogel–FSH interactions at the molecular level and presents new perspective for the ideal design and applications of the CS-CTS nanogel in protein delivery.

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