Development of effective quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) methods for complex biological processes

Demian Riccardi, Patricia Schaefer, Yang Yang, Haibo Yu, Nilanjan Ghosh, Xavier Prat-Resina, Peter König, Guohui Li, Dingguo Xu, Hua Guo, Marcus Elstner, Qiang Cui

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Motivated by the long-term goal of understanding vectorial biological processes such as proton transport (PT) in biomolecular ion pumps, a number of developments were made to establish combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) methods suitable for studying chemical reactions involving significant charge separation in the condensed phase. These developments were summarized and discussed with representative problems. Specifically, free energy perturbation and boundary potential methods for treating long-range electrostatics were implemented to test the robustness of QM/MM results for protein systems. It was shown that consistent models with sufficient sampling were able to produce quantitatively satisfactory results, such as pKa for titritable groups in the interior of T4-lysozyme, while an inconsistent treatment of electrostatics or lack of sufficient sampling may produce incorrect results. Modifications were made to an approximate density functional theory (SCC-DFTB) to improve the description of proton affinity and hydrogen-bonding, which are crucial for the treatment of PT in polar systems. Test calculations on water autoionization showed clearly that both improvements are necessary for quantitatively reliable results. Finally, the newly established SCC-DFTB/MM-GSBP protocol was used to explore mechanistic issues in carbonic anhydrase (CA). Preliminary results suggest that PT in CA occurs mainly through short water wires containing two water molecules in a thermally activated fashion. Although longer water wires occur with similar frequencies, PT along those pathways, on average, has substantially higher barriers, a result not expected based on previous studies. The fluctuations of water molecules peripheral to the water wire were found to make a larger impact on the PT energetics compared to polar protein residues in the active site, which are largely pre-organized and therefore have less tendency to reorganize during the reaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6458-6469
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number13
StatePublished - May 6 2006
Externally publishedYes


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