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Balancing simulation accuracy and efficiency with the Amber united atom force field.

The Journal of Physical Chemistry. B

Thermodynamics, Quantum Theory, Protein Folding, chemistry, Peptides, Models, Chemical, Computer Simulation

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      We have analyzed the quality of a recently proposed Amber united-atom model and its overall efficiency in ab initio folding and thermodynamic sampling of two stable beta-hairpins. It is found that the mean backbone structures are quite consistent between the simulations in the united-atom and its corresponding all-atom models in Amber. More importantly, the simulated beta turns are also consistent between the two models. Finally, the chemical shifts on H alpha are highly consistent between simulations in the two models, although the simulated chemical shifts are lower than experiment, indicating less structured peptides, probably due to the omission of the hydrophobic term in the simulations. More interestingly, the stabilities of both beta-hairpins at room temperature are similar to those derived from the NMR measurement, whether the united-atom or the all-atom model is used. Detailed analysis shows high percentages of backbone torsion angles within the beta region and high percentages of native contacts. Given the reasonable quality of the united-atom model with respect to experimental data, we have further studied the simulation efficiency of the united-atom model over the all-atom model. Our data shows that the united-atom model is a factor of 6-8 faster than the all-atom model as measured with the ab initio first pass folding time for the two tested beta-hairpins. Detailed structural analysis shows that all ab initio folded trajectories enter the native basin, whether the united-atom model or the all-atom model is used. Finally, we have also studied the simulation efficiency of the united-atom model as measured in terms of how fast thermodynamic convergence can be achieved. It is apparent that the united-atom simulations reach convergence faster than the all-atom simulations with respect to both mean potential energies and mean native contacts. These findings show that the efficiency of the united-atom model is clearly beyond the per-step dynamics simulation of about 2 over the all-atom model. Thus, reasonable reduction of a protein model can be achieved with improved sampling efficiency while still preserving a high level of accuracy for applications in both ab initio folding and thermodynamic sampling. This study motivates us to develop more simplified protein models with sufficient consistency with the all-atom models for enhanced conformational sampling.

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