General Model for Treating Short-Range Electrostatic Penetration in a Molecular Mechanics Force Field

J Chem Theory Comput. 2015 Jun 9;11(6):2609-2618. doi: 10.1021/acs.jctc.5b00267. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Classical molecular mechanics force fields typically model interatomic electrostatic interactions with point charges or multipole expansions, which can fail for atoms in close contact due to the lack of a description of penetration effects between their electron clouds. These short-range penetration effects can be significant and are essential for accurate modeling of intermolecular interactions. In this work we report parametrization of an empirical charge-charge function previously reported (Piquemal J.-P.; J. Phys. Chem. A2003, 107, 10353) to correct for the missing penetration term in standard molecular mechanics force fields. For this purpose, we have developed a database (S101×7) of 101 unique molecular dimers, each at 7 different intermolecular distances. Electrostatic, induction/polarization, repulsion, and dispersion energies, as well as the total interaction energy for each complex in the database are calculated using the SAPT2+ method (Parker T. M.; J. Chem. Phys.2014, 140, 094106). This empirical penetration model significantly improves agreement between point multipole and quantum mechanical electrostatic energies across the set of dimers and distances, while using only a limited set of parameters for each chemical element. Given the simplicity and effectiveness of the model, we expect the electrostatic penetration correction will become a standard component of future molecular mechanics force fields.