American Chemical Society
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Exploring Conformational Landscapes Along Anharmonic Low-Frequency Vibrations

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-07-10, 20:10 authored by Souvik Mondal, Michael A. Sauer, Matthias Heyden
We aim to automatize the identification of collective variables to simplify and speed up enhanced sampling simulations of conformational dynamics in biomolecules. We focus on anharmonic low-frequency vibrations that exhibit fluctuations on time scales faster than conformational transitions but describe a path of least resistance toward structural change. A key challenge is that harmonic approximations are ill-suited to characterize these vibrations, which are observed at far-infrared frequencies and are easily excited by thermal collisions at room temperature. Here, we approached this problem with a frequency-selective anharmonic (FRESEAN) mode analysis that does not rely on harmonic approximations and successfully isolates anharmonic low-frequency vibrations from short molecular dynamics simulation trajectories. We applied FRESEAN mode analysis to simulations of alanine dipeptide, a common test system for enhanced sampling simulation protocols, and compared the performance of isolated low-frequency vibrations to conventional user-defined collective variables (here backbone dihedral angles) in enhanced sampling simulations. The comparison shows that enhanced sampling along anharmonic low-frequency vibrations not only reproduces known conformational dynamics but can even further improve the sampling of slow transitions compared to user-defined collective variables. Notably, free energy surfaces spanned by low-frequency anharmonic vibrational modes exhibit lower barriers associated with conformational transitions relative to representations in backbone dihedral space. We thus conclude that anharmonic low-frequency vibrations provide a promising path for highly effective and fully automated enhanced sampling simulations of conformational dynamics in biomolecules.