Developing polarized protein-specific charges for protein dynamics: MD free energy calculation of pKa shifts for Asp26/Asp 20 in thioredoxin

Changge Ji, Ye Mei, John Z.H. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ab initio quantum mechanical calculation of protein in solution is carried out to generate polarized protein-specific charge(s) (PPC) for molecular dynamics (MD) stimulation of protein. The quantum calculation of protein is made possible by developing a fragment-based quantum chemistry approach in combination with the implicit continuum solvent model. The computed electron density of protein is utilized to derive PPCs that represent the polarized electrostatic state of protein near the native structure. These PPCs are atom-centered like those in the standard force fields and are thus computationally attractive for molecular dynamics simulation of protein. Extensive MD simulations have been carried out to investigate the effect of electronic polarization on the structure and dynamics of thioredoxin. Our study shows that the dynamics of thioredoxin is stabilized by electronic polarization through explicit comparison between MD results using PPC and AMBER charges. In particular, MD free-energy calculation using PPCs accurately reproduced the experimental value of pKa shift for ionizable residue Asp 26 buried inside thioredoxin, whereas previous calculations using standard force fields overestimated pKa shift by twice as much. Accurate prediction of pKa shifts by rigorous MD free energy simulation for ionizable residues buried inside protein has been a significant challenge in computational biology for decades. This study presented strong evidence that electronic polarization of protein plays an important role in protein dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1080-1088
Number of pages9
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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