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Using J-Coupling Constants for Force Field Validation: Application to Hepta-alanine

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journal contribution
posted on 29.12.2011, 00:00 by Panagiota S. Georgoulia, Nicholas M. Glykos
A computational solution to the protein folding problem is the holy grail of biomolecular simulation and of the corresponding force fields. The complexity of the systems used for folding simulations precludes a direct feedback between the simulations and the force fields, thus necessitating the study of simpler systems with sufficient experimental data to allow force field optimization and validation. Recent studies on short polyalanine peptides of increasing length (up to penta-alanine) indicated the presence of a systematic deviation between the experimental (NMR-derived) J-couplings and the great majority of biomolecular force fields, with the χ2 values for even the best-performing force fields being in the 1.4–1.8 range. Here we show that by increasing the number of residues to seven and by achieving convergence through an increase of the simulation time to 2 μs, we can identify one force field (the AMBER99SB force field, out of the three force fields studied) which when compared with the experimental J-coupling data (and for a specific set of Karplus equation parameters and estimated J-coupling errors previously used in the literature) gave a value of χ2 = 0.99, indicating that full statistical consistency between experiment and simulation is feasible. However, and as a detailed analysis of the effects of estimated errors shows, the χ2 values may be unsuitable as indicators of the goodness of fit of the various biomolecular force fields.

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