Performance comparison of generalized born and Poisson methods in the calculation of electrostatic solvation energies for protein structures

J Comput Chem. 2004 Jan 30;25(2):265-84. doi: 10.1002/jcc.10378.


This study compares generalized Born (GB) and Poisson (PB) methods for calculating electrostatic solvation energies of proteins. A large set of GB and PB implementations from our own laboratories as well as others is applied to a series of protein structure test sets for evaluating the performance of these methods. The test sets cover a significant range of native protein structures of varying size, fold topology, and amino acid composition as well as nonnative extended and misfolded structures that may be found during structure prediction and folding/unfolding studies. We find that the methods tested here span a wide range from highly accurate and computationally demanding PB-based methods to somewhat less accurate but more affordable GB-based approaches and a few fast, approximate PB solvers. Compared with PB solvation energies, the latest, most accurate GB implementations were found to achieve errors of 1% for relative solvation energies between different proteins and 0.4% between different conformations of the same protein. This compares to accurate PB solvers that produce results with deviations of less than 0.25% between each other for both native and nonnative structures. The performance of the best GB methods is discussed in more detail for the application for force field-based minimizations or molecular dynamics simulations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Solutions
  • Static Electricity
  • Thermodynamics


  • Proteins
  • Solutions