Antibodies have the ability to bind various types of antigens and to recognize different antibody-binding sites (epitopes) of the same antigen with different binding affinities. Due to the conserved structural framework of antibodies, their specificity to antigens is mainly determined by their antigen-binding site (paratope). Therefore, characterization of epitopes in combination with describing the involved conformational changes of the paratope upon binding is crucial in understanding and predicting antibody-antigen binding. Using molecular dynamics simulations complemented with strong experimental structural information, we investigated the underlying binding mechanism and the resulting local and global surface plasticity in the binding interfaces of distinct antibody-antigen complexes. In all studied allergen-antibody complexes, we clearly observe that experimentally suggested epitopes reveal less plasticity, while non-epitope regions show high surface plasticity. Surprisingly, the paratope shows higher conformational diversity reflected in substantially higher surface plasticity, compared to the epitope. This work allows a visualization and characterization of antibody-antigen interfaces and might have strong implications for antibody-antigen docking and in the area of epitope prediction.
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