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Computationally Efficient Multiscale Reactive Molecular Dynamics to Describe Amino Acid Deprotonation in Proteins.


An important challenge in the simulation of biomolecular systems is a quantitative description of the protonation and deprotonation process of amino acid residues. Despite the seeming simplicity of adding or removing a positively charged hydrogen nucleus, simulating the actual protonation/deprotonation process is inherently difficult. It requires both the explicit treatment of the excess proton, including its charge defect delocalization and Grotthuss shuttling through inhomogeneous moieties (water and amino residues), and extensive sampling of coupled condensed phase motions. In a recent paper ( J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2014 , 10 , 2729 - 2737 ), a multiscale approach was developed to map high-level quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) data into a multiscale reactive molecular dynamics (MS-RMD) model in order to describe amino acid deprotonation in bulk water. In this article, we extend the fitting approach (called FitRMD) to create MS-RMD models for ionizable amino acids within proteins. The resulting models are shown to faithfully reproduce the free energy profiles of the reference QM/MM Hamiltonian for PT inside an example protein, the ClC-ec1 H(+)/Cl(-) antiporter. Moreover, we show that the resulting MS-RMD models are computationally efficient enough to then characterize more complex 2-dimensional free energy surfaces due to slow degrees of freedom such as water hydration of internal protein cavities that can be inherently coupled to the excess proton charge translocation. The FitRMD method is thus shown to be an effective way to map ab initio level accuracy into a much more computationally efficient reactive MD method in order to explicitly simulate and quantitatively describe amino acid protonation/deprotonation in proteins.