Protein Structure Prediction with a Combined Solvation Free Energy-Molecular Mechanics Force Field
Models of protein structure are frequently used to determine the physical characteristics of a protein when the crystal structure is not available. We developed a procedure to optimize such models, by use of a combined solvation free energy and molecular mechanics force field. Appropriately chosen atomic solvation parameters were defined using the criterion that the resulting protein model should deviate least from the crystal structure upon a forty picosecond molecular dynamics simulation carried out using the combined force field. Several tests were performed to refine the set of atomic solvation parameters which best complement the molecular mechanics forces. Four sets of parameters from the literature were tested and an empirically optimized set is proposed. The parameters are defined on a well characterized small molecule (alanyl dipeptide) and on the highly refined crystal structure of rat trypsin, and then tested on a second highly refined crystal structure of agr-lytic protease. The new set of atomic solvation parameters provides a significant improvement over molecular mechanics alone in energy minimization of protein structures. This combined force field also has advantages over the use of explicit solvent as it is possible to take solvent effects into account during energetic conformational searching when modeling a homologous protein structure from a known crystal structure.