Improved Binding Free Energy Predictions from Single-Reference Thermodynamic Integration Augmented with Hamiltonian Replica Exchange

J Chem Theory Comput. 2011 Sep 13;7(9):3001-3011. doi: 10.1021/ct2003786.


Reliable predictions of relative binding free energies are essential in drug discovery, where chemists modify promising compounds with the aim of increasing binding affinity. Conventional Thermodynamic Integration (TI) approaches can estimate corresponding changes in binding free energies, but suffer from inadequate sampling due to ruggedness of the molecular energy surfaces. Here, we present an improved TI strategy for computing relative binding free energies of congeneric ligands. This strategy employs a specific, unphysical single-reference (SR) state and Hamiltonian replica exchange (HREX) to locally enhance sampling. We then apply this strategy to compute relative binding free energies of twelve ligands in the L99A mutant of T4 Lysozyme. Besides the ligands, our approach enhances hindered rotations of the important V111, as well as V87 and L118 sidechains. Concurrently, we devise practical strategies to monitor and improve HREX-SRTI efficiency. Overall, the HREX-SRTI results agree well (R(2) = 0.76, RMSE = 0.3 kcal/mol) with available experimental data. When optimized for efficiency, the HREX-SRTI precision matches that of experimental measurements.