Can MM/GBSA calculations be sped up by system truncation?

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We have studied whether calculations of the binding free energy of small ligands to a protein by the MM/GBSA approach (molecular mechanics combined with generalized Born and surface area solvation) can be sped up by including only a restricted number of atoms close to the ligand. If the protein is truncated before the molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, quite large changes are observed for the calculated binding energies, for example, 4 kJ/mol average difference for a radius of 19 Å for the binding of nine phenol derivatives to ferritin. The results are improved if no atoms are fixed in the simulations, with average and maximum errors of 2 and 3 kJ/mol at 19 Å and 3 and 6 kJ/mol at 7 Å. Similar results are obtained for two additional proteins, p38α MAP kinase and factor Xa. On the other hand, if energies are calculated on snapshots that are truncated after the MD simulation, all residues more than 8.5 Å from the ligand can be omitted without changing the energies by more than 1 kJ/mol on average (maximum error 1.4 kJ/mol). At the molecular mechanics level, the gain in computer time for such an approach is small. However, it shows what size of system should be used if the energies instead are calculated with a more demanding method, for example, quantum-mechanics.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


  • factor Xa, ferritin, ligand-binding affinities, MM/GBSA, p38α MAP kinase, system truncation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-372
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Computational Chemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 15
Publication categoryResearch

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