Biomolecular electrostatics and solvation: a computational perspective

Q Rev Biophys. 2012 Nov;45(4):427-91. doi: 10.1017/S003358351200011X.


An understanding of molecular interactions is essential for insight into biological systems at the molecular scale. Among the various components of molecular interactions, electrostatics are of special importance because of their long-range nature and their influence on polar or charged molecules, including water, aqueous ions, proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and membrane lipids. In particular, robust models of electrostatic interactions are essential for understanding the solvation properties of biomolecules and the effects of solvation upon biomolecular folding, binding, enzyme catalysis, and dynamics. Electrostatics, therefore, are of central importance to understanding biomolecular structure and modeling interactions within and among biological molecules. This review discusses the solvation of biomolecules with a computational biophysics view toward describing the phenomenon. While our main focus lies on the computational aspect of the models, we provide an overview of the basic elements of biomolecular solvation (e.g. solvent structure, polarization, ion binding, and non-polar behavior) in order to provide a background to understand the different types of solvation models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Macromolecular Substances / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Quantum Theory
  • Solvents / chemistry*
  • Static Electricity*
  • Water / chemistry


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Solvents
  • Water