Biomolecular electrostatics with the linearized Poisson-Boltzmann equation

Federico Fogolari, Pierfrancesco Zuccato, Gennaro Esposito, Paolo Viglino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrostatics plays a key role in many biological processes. The Poisson-Boltzmann equation (PBE) and its linearized form (LPBE) allow prediction of electrostatic effects for biomolecular systems. The discrepancies between the solutions of the PBE and those of the LPBE are well known for systems with a simple geometry, but much less for biomolecular systems. Results for high charge density systems show that there are limitations to the applicability of the LPBE at low ionic strength and, to a lesser extent, at higher ionic strength. For systems with a simple geometry, the onset of nonlinear effects has been shown to be governed by the ratio of the electric field over the Debye screening constant. This ratio is used in the present work to correct the LPBE results to reproduce fairly accurately those obtained from the PBE for systems with a simple geometry. Since the correction does not involve any geometrical parameter, it can be easily applied to real biomolecular systems. The error on the potential for the LPBE (compared to the PBE) spans few kT/q for the systems studied here and is greatly reduced by the correction. This allows for a more accurate evaluation of the electrostatic free energy of the systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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