From System Modeling to System Analysis: The Impact of Resolution Level and Resolution Distribution in the Computer-Aided Investigation of Biomolecules

Front Mol Biosci. 2021 Jun 7;8:676976. doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2021.676976. eCollection 2021.


The ever increasing computer power, together with the improved accuracy of atomistic force fields, enables researchers to investigate biological systems at the molecular level with remarkable detail. However, the relevant length and time scales of many processes of interest are still hardly within reach even for state-of-the-art hardware, thus leaving important questions often unanswered. The computer-aided investigation of many biological physics problems thus largely benefits from the usage of coarse-grained models, that is, simplified representations of a molecule at a level of resolution that is lower than atomistic. A plethora of coarse-grained models have been developed, which differ most notably in their granularity; this latter aspect determines one of the crucial open issues in the field, i.e. the identification of an optimal degree of coarsening, which enables the greatest simplification at the expenses of the smallest information loss. In this review, we present the problem of coarse-grained modeling in biophysics from the viewpoint of system representation and information content. In particular, we discuss two distinct yet complementary aspects of protein modeling: on the one hand, the relationship between the resolution of a model and its capacity of accurately reproducing the properties of interest; on the other hand, the possibility of employing a lower resolution description of a detailed model to extract simple, useful, and intelligible information from the latter.

Keywords: biophysics; coarse-graining; modeling; molecular dynamics; proteins.

Publication types

  • Review