Electrostatics of proteins in dielectric solvent continua. I. An accurate and efficient reaction field description

J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2014, 140, 104102 published on 10.03.2014
J. Chem. Phys.
We present a reaction field (RF) method which accurately solves the Poisson equation for proteins embedded in dielectric solvent continua at a computational effort comparable to that of an electrostatics calculation with polarizable molecular mechanics (MM) force fields. The method combines an approach originally suggested by Egwolf and Tavan [J. Chem. Phys.118, 2039 (2003)] with concepts generalizing the Born solution [Z. Phys.1, 45 (1920)] for a solvated ion. First, we derive an exact representation according to which the sources of the RF potential and energy are inducible atomic anti-polarization densities and atomic shielding charge distributions. Modeling these atomic densities by Gaussians leads to an approximate representation. Here, the strengths of the Gaussian shielding charge distributions are directly given in terms of the static partial charges as defined, e.g., by standard MM force fields for the various atom types, whereas the strengths of the Gaussian anti-polarization densities are calculated by a self-consistency iteration. The atomic volumes are also described by Gaussians. To account for covalently overlapping atoms, their effective volumes are calculated by another self-consistency procedure, which guarantees that the dielectric function ε(r) is close to one everywhere inside the protein. The Gaussian widths σ i of the atoms i are parameters of the RF approximation. The remarkable accuracy of the method is demonstrated by comparison with Kirkwood's analytical solution for a spherical protein [J. Chem. Phys.2, 351 (1934)] and with computationally expensive grid-based numerical solutions for simple model systems in dielectric continua including a di-peptide (Ac-Ala-NHMe) as modeled by a standard MM force field. The latter example shows how weakly the RF conformational free energy landscape depends on the parameters σ i . A summarizing discussion highlights the achievements of the new theory and of its approximate solution particularly by comparison with so-called generalized Born methods. A follow-up paper describes how the method enables Hamiltonian, efficient, and accurate MM molecular dynamics simulations of proteins in dielectric solvent continua.
TU München