Investigation of Molecular Interactions Mechanism of Pembrolizumab and PD-1

Simiao Wang, Faez Iqbal Khan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Human programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) is a checkpoint protein involved in the regulation of immune response. Antibodies are widely used as inhibitors that block the immune checkpoint, preventing strong immune responses. Pembrolizumab is an FDA-approved IgG4 antibody with PD-1 inhibitory ability for the treatment of melanoma. In this study, we investigated the effect of Pembrolizumab on the conformational changes in PD-1 using extensive molecular modeling and simulation approaches. Our study revealed that during the 200 ns simulation, the average values of the solvent accessible surface area, the radius of gyration, and internal hydrogen bonds of PD-1 were 64.46 nm2, 1.38 nm and 78, respectively, while these values of PD-1 in the PD-1/Pembrolizumab complex were 67.29 nm2, 1.39 nm and 76, respectively. The RMSD value of PD-1 gradually increased until 80 ns and maintained its stable conformation at 0.32 nm after 80 ns, while this value of PD-1 in the PD-1/Pembrolizumab complex maintained an increasing trend during 200 ns. The interaction between PD-1 and Pembrolizumab led to a flexible but stable structure of PD-1. PD-1 rotated around the rotation axis of the C’D loop and gradually approached Pembrolizumab. The number of hydrogen bonds involved in the interactions on the C and C’ strands increased from 4 at 100 ns to 7 at 200 ns. The strong affinity of Pembrolizumab for the C’D and FG loops of PD-1 disrupted the interactions between PD-1 and PD-L1. Inhibition of the interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1 increased the T cell activity, and is effective in controlling and curing cancer. Further experimental work can be performed to support this finding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10684
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • cancer
  • MD simulation
  • PD-1
  • pembrolizumab
  • T cells


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