Proper balance between protein-protein and protein-water interactions is vital for atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of globular proteins as well as intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). The overestimation of protein-protein interactions tends to make IDPs more compact than those in experiments. Likewise, multiple proteins in crowded solutions are aggregated with each other too strongly. To optimize the balance, Lennard-Jones (LJ) interactions between protein and water are often increased about 10% (with a scaling parameter, λ = 1.1) from the existing force fields. Here, we explore the optimal scaling parameter of protein-water LJ interactions for CHARMM36m in conjunction with the modified TIP3P water model, by performing enhanced sampling MD simulations of several peptides in dilute solutions and conventional MD simulations of globular proteins in dilute and crowded solutions. In our simulations, 10% increase of protein-water LJ interaction for the CHARMM36m cannot maintain stability of a small helical peptide, (AAQAA)3 in a dilute solution and only a small modification of protein-water LJ interaction up to the 3% increase (λ = 1.03) is allowed. The modified protein-water interactions are applicable to other peptides and globular proteins in dilute solutions without changing thermodynamic properties from the original CHARMM36m. However, it has a great impact on the diffusive properties of proteins in crowded solutions, avoiding the formation of too sticky protein-protein interactions.
Modified Hamiltonian in FEP calculations for reducing the computational cost of electrostatic interactions
The free-energy perturbation (FEP) method predicts relative and absolute free-energy changes of biomolecules in solvation and binding with other molecules. FEP is, therefore, one of the most essential tools in in silico drug design. In conventional FEP, to smoothly connect two thermodynamic states, the potential energy is modified as a linear combination of the end-state potential energies by introducing scaling factors. When the particle mesh Ewald is used for electrostatic calculations, conventional FEP requires two reciprocal-space calculations per time step, which largely decreases the computational performance. To overcome this problem, we propose a new FEP scheme by introducing a modified Hamiltonian instead of interpolation of the end-state potential energies. The scheme introduces nonuniform scaling into the electrostatic potential as used in Replica Exchange with Solute Tempering 2 (REST2) and does not require additional reciprocal-space calculations. We tested this modified Hamiltonian in FEP calculations in several biomolecular systems. In all cases, the calculated free-energy changes with the current scheme are in good agreement with those from conventional FEP. The modified Hamiltonian in FEP greatly improves the computational performance, which is particularly marked for large biomolecular systems whose reciprocal-space calculations are the major bottleneck of total computational time.
Practical Protocols for efficient sampling of kinase-inhibitor binding pathways using two-dimensional replica-exchange molecular dynamics
Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are increasingly used to study various biological processes such as protein folding, conformational changes, and ligand binding. These processes generally involve slow dynamics that occur on the millisecond or longer timescale, which are difficult to simulate by conventional atomistic MD. Recently, we applied a two-dimensional (2D) replica exchange MD (REMD) method, which combines the generalized replica exchange with solute tempering (gREST) with the replica-exchange umbrella sampling (REUS) in kinase-inhibitor binding simulations, and successfully observed multiple ligand binding/unbinding events. To efficiently apply the gREST/REUS method to other kinase-inhibitor systems, we establish modified, practical protocols with non-trivial simulation parameter tuning. The current gREST/REUS simulation protocols are tested for three kinase-inhibitor systems: c-Src kinase with PP1, c-Src kinase with Dasatinib, and c Abl kinase with Imatinib. We optimized the definition of kinase-ligand distance as a collective variable (CV), the solute temperatures in gREST, and replica distributions and umbrella forces in the REUS simulations. Also, the initial structures of each replica in the 2D replica space were prepared carefully by pulling each ligand from and toward the protein binding sites for keeping stable kinase conformations. These optimizations were carried out individually in multiple short MD simulations. The current gREST/REUS simulation protocol ensures good random walks in 2D replica spaces, which are required for enhanced sampling of inhibitor dynamics around a target kinase.