Further optimization of a hybrid united-atom and coarse-grained force field for folding simulations: Improved backbone hydration and interactions between charged side chains

J Chem Theory Comput. 2012 Nov 13;8(11):4413-4424. doi: 10.1021/ct300696c. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


PACE, a hybrid force field which couples united-atom protein models with coarse-grained (CG) solvent, has been further optimized, aiming to improve itse ciency for folding simulations. Backbone hydration parameters have been re-optimized based on hydration free energies of polyalanyl peptides through atomistic simulations. Also, atomistic partial charges from all-atom force fields were combined with PACE in order to provide a more realistic description of interactions between charged groups. Using replica exchange molecular dynamics (REMD), ab initio folding using the new PACE has been achieved for seven small proteins (16 - 23 residues) with different structural motifs. Experimental data about folded states, such as their stability at room temperature, melting point and NMR NOE constraints, were also well reproduced. Moreover, a systematic comparison of folding kinetics at room temperature has been made with experiments, through standard MD simulations, showing that the new PACE may speed up the actual folding kinetics 5-10 times. Together with the computational speedup benefited from coarse-graining, the force field provides opportunities to study folding mechanisms. In particular, we used the new PACE to fold a 73-residue protein, 3D, in multiple 10 - 30 μs simulations, to its native states (C(α) RMSD ~ 0.34 nm). Our results suggest the potential applicability of the new PACE for the study of folding and dynamics of proteins.