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Systematic Validation of Protein Force Fields against Experimental Data

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      Molecular dynamics simulations provide a vehicle for capturing the structures, motions, and interactions of biological macromolecules in full atomic detail. The accuracy of such simulations, however, is critically dependent on the force field—the mathematical model used to approximate the atomic-level forces acting on the simulated molecular system. Here we present a systematic and extensive evaluation of eight different protein force fields based on comparisons of experimental data with molecular dynamics simulations that reach a previously inaccessible timescale. First, through extensive comparisons with experimental NMR data, we examined the force fields' abilities to describe the structure and fluctuations of folded proteins. Second, we quantified potential biases towards different secondary structure types by comparing experimental and simulation data for small peptides that preferentially populate either helical or sheet-like structures. Third, we tested the force fields' abilities to fold two small proteins—one α-helical, the other with β-sheet structure. The results suggest that force fields have improved over time, and that the most recent versions, while not perfect, provide an accurate description of many structural and dynamical properties of proteins.

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      Comparison of multiple Amber force fields and development of improved protein backbone parameters.

      The ff94 force field that is commonly associated with the Amber simulation package is one of the most widely used parameter sets for biomolecular simulation. After a decade of extensive use and testing, limitations in this force field, such as over-stabilization of alpha-helices, were reported by us and other researchers. This led to a number of attempts to improve these parameters, resulting in a variety of "Amber" force fields and significant difficulty in determining which should be used for a particular application. We show that several of these continue to suffer from inadequate balance between different secondary structure elements. In addition, the approach used in most of these studies neglected to account for the existence in Amber of two sets of backbone phi/psi dihedral terms. This led to parameter sets that provide unreasonable conformational preferences for glycine. We report here an effort to improve the phi/psi dihedral terms in the ff99 energy function. Dihedral term parameters are based on fitting the energies of multiple conformations of glycine and alanine tetrapeptides from high level ab initio quantum mechanical calculations. The new parameters for backbone dihedrals replace those in the existing ff99 force field. This parameter set, which we denote ff99SB, achieves a better balance of secondary structure elements as judged by improved distribution of backbone dihedrals for glycine and alanine with respect to PDB survey data. It also accomplishes improved agreement with published experimental data for conformational preferences of short alanine peptides and better accord with experimental NMR relaxation data of test protein systems. (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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        Extending the treatment of backbone energetics in protein force fields: limitations of gas-phase quantum mechanics in reproducing protein conformational distributions in molecular dynamics simulations.

        Computational studies of proteins based on empirical force fields represent a powerful tool to obtain structure-function relationships at an atomic level, and are central in current efforts to solve the protein folding problem. The results from studies applying these tools are, however, dependent on the quality of the force fields used. In particular, accurate treatment of the peptide backbone is crucial to achieve representative conformational distributions in simulation studies. To improve the treatment of the peptide backbone, quantum mechanical (QM) and molecular mechanical (MM) calculations were undertaken on the alanine, glycine, and proline dipeptides, and the results from these calculations were combined with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of proteins in crystal and aqueous environments. QM potential energy maps of the alanine and glycine dipeptides at the LMP2/cc-pVxZ//MP2/6-31G* levels, where x = D, T, and Q, were determined, and are compared to available QM studies on these molecules. The LMP2/cc-pVQZ//MP2/6-31G* energy surfaces for all three dipeptides were then used to improve the MM treatment of the dipeptides. These improvements included additional parameter optimization via Monte Carlo simulated annealing and extension of the potential energy function to contain peptide backbone phi, psi dihedral crossterms or a phi, psi grid-based energy correction term. Simultaneously, MD simulations of up to seven proteins in their crystalline environments were used to validate the force field enhancements. Comparison with QM and crystallographic data showed that an additional optimization of the phi, psi dihedral parameters along with the grid-based energy correction were required to yield significant improvements over the CHARMM22 force field. However, systematic deviations in the treatment of phi and psi in the helical and sheet regions were evident. Accordingly, empirical adjustments were made to the grid-based energy correction for alanine and glycine to account for these systematic differences. These adjustments lead to greater deviations from QM data for the two dipeptides but also yielded improved agreement with experimental crystallographic data. These improvements enhance the quality of the CHARMM force field in treating proteins. This extension of the potential energy function is anticipated to facilitate improved treatment of biological macromolecules via MM approaches in general. Copyright 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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          Improved side-chain torsion potentials for the Amber ff99SB protein force field

          Recent advances in hardware and software have enabled increasingly long molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of biomolecules, exposing certain limitations in the accuracy of the force fields used for such simulations and spurring efforts to refine these force fields. Recent modifications to the Amber and CHARMM protein force fields, for example, have improved the backbone torsion potentials, remedying deficiencies in earlier versions. Here, we further advance simulation accuracy by improving the amino acid side-chain torsion potentials of the Amber ff99SB force field. First, we used simulations of model alpha-helical systems to identify the four residue types whose rotamer distribution differed the most from expectations based on Protein Data Bank statistics. Second, we optimized the side-chain torsion potentials of these residues to match new, high-level quantum-mechanical calculations. Finally, we used microsecond-timescale MD simulations in explicit solvent to validate the resulting force field against a large set of experimental NMR measurements that directly probe side-chain conformations. The new force field, which we have termed Amber ff99SB-ILDN, exhibits considerably better agreement with the NMR data. Proteins 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]D. E. Shaw Research, New York, New York, United States of America
            [2 ]Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States of America
            Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland
            Author notes

            Conceived and designed the experiments: KL-L PM SP MPE ROD DES. Performed the experiments: KL-L PM SP. Analyzed the data: KL-L PM SP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: KL-L PM SP. Wrote the paper: KL-L PM SP ROD DES.

            Role: Editor
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            22 February 2012
            : 7
            : 2
            Lindorff-Larsen et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Pages: 6
            Research Article
            Computational Biology
            Macromolecular Structure Analysis
            Computational Chemistry
            Physical Chemistry
            Theoretical Chemistry



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