Monte Carlo Tightly Bound Ion Model: Predicting Ion-Binding Properties of RNA with Ion Correlations and Fluctuations.
ABSTRACT: Experiments have suggested that ion correlation and fluctuation effects can be potentially important for multivalent ions in RNA folding. However, most existing computational methods for the ion electrostatics in RNA folding tend to ignore these effects. The previously reported tightly bound ion (TBI) model can treat ion correlation and fluctuation but its applicability to biologically important RNAs is severely limited by the low computational efficiency. Here, on the basis of Monte Carlo sampling for the many-body ion distribution, we develop a new computational model, the Monte Carlo tightly bound ion (MCTBI) model, for ion-binding properties around an RNA. Because of an enhanced sampling algorithm for ion distribution, the model leads to a significant improvement in computational efficiency. For example, for a 160-nt RNA, the model causes a more than 10-fold increase in the computational efficiency, and the improvement in computational efficiency is more pronounced for larger systems. Furthermore, unlike the earlier model that describes ion distribution using the number of bound ions around each nucleotide, the current MCTBI model is based on the three-dimensional coordinates of the ions. The higher efficiency of the model allows us to treat the ion effects for medium to large RNA molecules, RNA-ligand complexes, and RNA-protein complexes. This new model together with proper RNA conformational sampling and the energetics model may serve as a starting point for further development for the ion effects in RNA folding and conformational changes and for large nucleic acid systems.
Project description:The recently developed Tightly Bound Ion (TBI) model offers improved predictions for ion effect in nucleic acid systems by accounting for ion correlation and fluctuation effects. However, further application of the model to larger systems is limited by the low computational efficiency of the model. Here, we develop a new computational efficient TBI model using free energy landscape-guided sampling method. The method leads to drastic reduction in the computer time by a factor of 50 for RNAs of 50-100 nucleotides long. The improvement in the computational efficiency would be more significant for larger structures. To test the new method, we apply the model to predict the free energies and the number of bound ions for a series of RNA folding systems. The validity of this new model is supported by the nearly exact agreement with the results from the original TBI model and the agreement with the experimental data. The method may pave the way for further applications of the TBI model to treat a broad range of biologically significant systems such as tetraloop-receptor and riboswitches.
Project description:The strong interaction between metal ions in solution and highly charged RNA molecules is critical for RNA structure formation and stabilization. Metal ions binding to RNA can induce RNA structural changes that are important for RNA cellular functions. Therefore, quantitative modeling of the ion effects is essential for RNA structure prediction and RNA-based molecular design. Recently, inspired by the increasing experimental evidence that supports the importance of ion correlation and fluctuation in ion-RNA interactions, we developed a new computational model, Monte Carlo Tightly Bound Ion (MCTBI) model. The validity of the model is shown by the improved accuracy in the predictions for ion binding properties and ion-dependent free energies for RNA structures. In this chapter, using homodimeric tetraloop-receptor docking as an illustrative example, we showcase the MCTBI method for the computational prediction of the ion effects in RNA folding.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Metal ions play a critical role in the stabilization of RNA structures. Therefore, accurate prediction of the ion effects in RNA folding can have a far-reaching impact on our understanding of RNA structure and function. Multivalent ions, especially Mg²?, are essential for RNA tertiary structure formation. These ions can possibly become strongly correlated in the close vicinity of RNA surface. Most of the currently available software packages, which have widespread success in predicting ion effects in biomolecular systems, however, do not explicitly account for the ion correlation effect. Therefore, it is important to develop a software package/web server for the prediction of ion electrostatics in RNA folding by including ion correlation effects.<h4>Results</h4>The TBI web server http://rna.physics.missouri.edu/tbi_index.html provides predictions for the total electrostatic free energy, the different free energy components, and the mean number and the most probable distributions of the bound ions. A novel feature of the TBI server is its ability to account for ion correlation and ion distribution fluctuation effects.<h4>Conclusions</h4>By accounting for the ion correlation and fluctuation effects, the TBI server is a unique online tool for computing ion-mediated electrostatic properties for given RNA structures. The results can provide important data for in-depth analysis for ion effects in RNA folding including the ion-dependence of folding stability, ion uptake in the folding process, and the interplay between the different energetic components.
Project description:Metal ions play essential roles in nucleic acids folding and stability. The interaction between metal ions and nucleic acids can be highly complicated because of the interplay between various effects such as ion correlation, fluctuation, and dehydration. These effects may be particularly important for multivalent ions such as Mg2+ ions. Previous efforts to model ion correlation and fluctuation effects led to the development of the Monte Carlo tightly bound ion model. Here, by incorporating ion hydration/dehydration effects into the Monte Carlo tightly bound ion model, we develop a, to our knowledge, new approach to predict ion binding. The new model enables predictions for not only the number of bound ions but also the three-dimensional spatial distribution of the bound ions. Furthermore, the new model reveals several intriguing features for the bound ions such as the mutual enhancement/inhibition in ion binding between the fully hydrated (diffuse) ions, the outer-shell dehydrated ions, and the inner-shell dehydrated ions and novel features for the monovalent-divalent ion interplay due to the hydration effect.
Project description:Metal ions play critical roles in RNA structure and function. However, web servers and software packages for predicting ion effects in RNA structures are notably scarce. Furthermore, the existing web servers and software packages mainly neglect ion correlation and fluctuation effects, which are potentially important for RNAs. We here report a new web server, the MCTBI server (http://rna.physics.missouri.edu/MCTBI), for the prediction of ion effects for RNA structures. This server is based on the recently developed MCTBI, a model that can account for ion correlation and fluctuation effects for nucleic acid structures and can provide improved predictions for the effects of metal ions, especially for multivalent ions such as Mg2+ effects, as shown by extensive theory-experiment test results. The MCTBI web server predicts metal ion binding fractions, the most probable bound ion distribution, the electrostatic free energy of the system, and the free energy components. The results provide mechanistic insights into the role of metal ions in RNA structure formation and folding stability, which is important for understanding RNA functions and the rational design of RNA structures.
Project description:RNAs are negatively charged molecules that reside in cellular environments with macromolecular crowding. Macromolecular confinement can influence the ion effects in RNA folding. In this work, using the recently developed tightly bound ion model for ion fluctuation and correlation, we investigate the effect of confinement on ion-mediated RNA structural collapse for a simple model system. We find that for both Na(+) and Mg(2+), the ion efficiencies in mediating structural collapse/folding are significantly enhanced by the structural confinement. This enhancement of ion efficiency is attributed to the decreased electrostatic free-energy difference between the compact conformation ensemble and the (restricted) extended conformation ensemble due to the spatial restriction.
Project description:We develop a new statistical mechanical model to predict the molecular crowding effects in ion-RNA interactions. By considering discrete distributions of the crowders, the model can treat the main crowder-induced effects, such as the competition with ions for RNA binding, changes of electrostatic interaction due to crowder-induced changes in the dielectric environment, and changes in the nonpolar hydration state of the crowder-RNA system. To enhance the computational efficiency, we sample the crowder distribution using a hybrid approach: For crowders in the close vicinity of RNA surface, we sample their discrete distributions; for crowders in the bulk solvent away from the RNA surface, we use a continuous mean-field distribution for the crowders. Moreover, using the tightly bound ion (TBI) model, we account for ion fluctuation and correlation effects in the calculation for ion-RNA interactions. Applications of the model to a variety of simple RNA structures such as RNA helices show a crowder-induced increase in free energy and decrease in ion binding. Such crowding effects tend to contribute to the destabilization of RNA structure. Further analysis indicates that these effects are associated with the crowder-ion competition in RNA binding and the effective decrease in the dielectric constant. This simple ion effect model may serve as a useful framework for modeling more realistic crowders with larger, more complex RNA structures.
Project description:Electrostatics are central to all aspects of nucleic acid behavior, including their folding, condensation, and binding to other molecules, and the energetics of these processes are profoundly influenced by the ion atmosphere that surrounds nucleic acids. Given the highly complex and dynamic nature of the ion atmosphere, understanding its properties and effects will require synergy between computational modeling and experiment. Prior computational models and experiments suggest that cation occupancy in the ion atmosphere depends on the size of the cation. However, the computational models have not been independently tested, and the experimentally observed effects were small. Here, we evaluate a computational model of ion size effects by experimentally testing a blind prediction made from that model, and we present additional experimental results that extend our understanding of the ion atmosphere. Giambasu et al. developed and implemented a three-dimensional reference interaction site (3D-RISM) model for monovalent cations surrounding DNA and RNA helices, and this model predicts that Na(+) would outcompete Cs(+) by 1.8-2.1-fold; i.e., with Cs(+) in 2-fold excess of Na(+) the ion atmosphere would contain an equal number of each cation (Nucleic Acids Res. 2015, 43, 8405). However, our ion counting experiments indicate that there is no significant preference for Na(+) over Cs(+). There is an ?25% preferential occupancy of Li(+) over larger cations in the ion atmosphere but, counter to general expectations from existing models, no size dependence for the other alkali metal ions. Further, we followed the folding of the P4-P6 RNA and showed that differences in folding with different alkali metal ions observed at high concentration arise from cation-anion interactions and not cation size effects. Overall, our results provide a critical test of a computational prediction, fundamental information about ion atmosphere properties, and parameters that will aid in the development of next-generation nucleic acid computational models.
Project description:Ion-mediated electrostatic interactions play an important role in RNA folding stability. For a RNA in a solution with higher Mg(2+) ion concentration, more counterions in the solution can bind to the RNA, causing a strong many-body coupling between the bound ions. The many-body effect can change the effective potential of mean force between the tightly bound ions. This effect tends to dampen ion binding and lower RNA folding stability. Neglecting the many-body effect leads to a systematic error (over-estimation) of RNA folding stability at high Mg(2+) ion concentrations. Using the tightly bound ion model combined with a conformational ensemble model, we investigate the influence of the many-body effect on the ion-dependent RNA folding stability. Comparisons with the experimental data indicate that including the many-body effect led to much improved predictions for RNA folding stability at high Mg(2+) ion concentrations. The results suggest that the many-body effect can be important for RNA folding in high concentrations of multivalent ions. Further investigation showed that the many-body effect can influence the spatial distribution of the tightly bound ions and the effect is more pronounced for compact RNA structures and structures prone to the formation of local clustering of ions.
Project description:Recent experiments pointed to the potential importance of ion correlation for multivalent ions such as Mg(2+) ions in RNA folding. In this study, we develop an all-atom model to predict the ion electrostatics in RNA folding. The model can treat ion correlation effects explicitly by considering an ensemble of discrete ion distributions. In contrast to the previous coarse-grained models that can treat ion correlation, this new model is based on all-atom nucleic acid structures. Thus, unlike the previous coarse-grained models, this new model allows us to treat complex tertiary structures such as HIV-1 DIS type RNA kissing complexes. Theory-experiment comparisons for a variety of tertiary structures indicate that the model gives improved predictions over the Poisson-Boltzmann theory, which underestimates the Mg(2+) binding in the competition with Na(+). Further systematic theory-experiment comparisons for a series of tertiary structures lead to a set of analytical formulas for Mg(2+)/Na(+) ion-binding to various RNA and DNA structures over a wide range of Mg(2+) and Na(+) concentrations.