Robust Free Energy Perturbation Protocols for Creating Molecules in Solution.
ABSTRACT: Accurate methods to estimate free energies play an important role for studying diverse condensed-phase problems in chemistry and biochemistry. The most common methods used in conjunction with molecular dynamics (MD) and Monte Carlo statistical mechanics (MC) simulations are free energy perturbation (FEP) and thermodynamic integration (TI). For common applications featuring the conversion of one molecule to another, simulations are run in stages or multiple "?-windows" to promote convergence of the results. For computation of absolute free energies of solvation or binding, calculations are needed in which the solute is typically annihilated in the solvent and in the complex. The present work addresses identification of optimal protocols for such calculations, specifically, the creation/annihilation of organic molecules in aqueous solution. As is common practice, decoupling of the perturbations for electrostatic and Lennard-Jones interactions was performed. Consistent with earlier reports, FEP calculations for molecular creations are much more efficient, while annihilations require many more windows and may converge to incorrect values. Strikingly, we find that as few as four windows may be adequate for creation calculations for solutes ranging from argon to ethylbenzene. For a larger druglike molecule, MIF180, which contains 22 non-hydrogen atoms and three rotatable bonds, 10 creation windows are found to be adequate to yield the correct free energy of hydration. Convergence is impeded with procedures that use any sampling in the annihilation direction, and there is no need for postprocessing methods such as the Bennett acceptance ratio (BAR).
Project description:Advanced free energy perturbation molecular dynamics (FEP/MD) simulation methods are available to accurately calculate absolute binding free energies of protein-ligand complexes. However, these methods rely on several sophisticated command scripts implementing various biasing energy restraints to enhance the convergence of the FEP/MD calculations, which must all be handled properly to yield correct results. Here, we present a user-friendly Web interface, CHARMM-GUI Ligand Binder ( http://www.charmm-gui.org/input/gbinding ), to provide standardized CHARMM input files for calculations of absolute binding free energies using the FEP/MD simulations. A number of features are implemented to conveniently set up the FEP/MD simulations in highly customizable manners, thereby permitting an accelerated throughput of this important class of computations while decreasing the possibility of human errors. The interface and a series of input files generated by the interface are tested with illustrative calculations of absolute binding free energies of three nonpolar aromatic ligands to the L99A mutant of T4 lysozyme and three FK506-related ligands to FKBP12. Statistical errors within individual calculations are found to be small (~1 kcal/mol), and the calculated binding free energies generally agree well with the experimental measurements and the previous computational studies (within ~2 kcal/mol). Therefore, CHARMM-GUI Ligand Binder provides a convenient and reliable way to set up the ligand binding free energy calculations and can be applicable to pharmaceutically important protein-ligand systems.
Project description:Alchemical free energy calculations play a very important role in the field of molecular modeling. Efforts have been made to improve the accuracy and precision of those calculations. One of the efforts is to employ a Hamiltonian replica exchange molecular dynamics (H-REMD) method to enhance conformational sampling. In this paper, we demonstrated that HREMD method not only improves convergence in alchemical free energy calculations but also can be used to compute free energy differences directly via the Free Energy Perturbation (FEP)algorithm. We show a direct mapping between the H-REMD and the usual FEP equations, which are then used directly to compute free energies. The H-REMD alchemical free energy calculation (Replica exchange Free Energy Perturbation, REFEP) was tested on predicting the pK(a) value of the buried Asp26 in thioredoxin. We compare the results of REFEP with TI and regular FEP simulations. REFEP calculations converged faster than those from TI and regular FEP simulations. The final predicted pK(a) value from the H-REMD simulation was also very accurate, only 0.4 pK(a) unit above the experimental value. Utilizing the REFEP algorithm significantly improves conformational sampling, and this in turn improves the convergence of alchemical free energy simulations.
Project description:Molecular dynamics-based free energy calculations allow the determination of a variety of thermodynamic quantities from computer simulations of small molecules. Thermodynamic integration (TI) calculations can suffer from instabilities during the creation or annihilation of particles. This "singularity" problem can be addressed with "soft-core" potential functions which keep pairwise interaction energies finite for all configurations and provide smooth free energy curves. "One-step" transformations, in which electrostatic and van der Waals forces are simultaneously modified, can be simpler and less expensive than "two-step" transformations in which these properties are changed in separate calculations. Here, we study solvation free energies for molecules of different hydrophobicity using both models. We provide recommended values for the two parameters ?(LJ) and ?(C) controlling the behavior of the soft-core Lennard-Jones and Coulomb potentials and compare one- and two-step transformations with regard to their suitability for numerical integration. For many types of transformations, the one-step procedure offers a convenient and accurate approach to free energy estimates.
Project description:The absolute (standard) binding free energy of eight FK506-related ligands to FKBP12 is calculated using free energy perturbation molecular dynamics (FEP/MD) simulations with explicit solvent. A number of features are implemented to improve the accuracy and enhance the convergence of the calculations. First, the absolute binding free energy is decomposed into sequential steps during which the ligand-surrounding interactions as well as various biasing potentials restraining the translation, orientation, and conformation of the ligand are turned "on" and "off." Second, sampling of the ligand conformation is enforced by a restraining potential based on the root mean-square deviation relative to the bound state conformation. The effect of all the restraining potentials is rigorously unbiased, and it is shown explicitly that the final results are independent of all artificial restraints. Third, the repulsive and dispersive free energy contribution arising from the Lennard-Jones interactions of the ligand with its surrounding (protein and solvent) is calculated using the Weeks-Chandler-Andersen separation. This separation also improves convergence of the FEP/MD calculations. Fourth, to decrease the computational cost, only a small number of atoms in the vicinity of the binding site are simulated explicitly, while all the influence of the remaining atoms is incorporated implicitly using the generalized solvent boundary potential (GSBP) method. With GSBP, the size of the simulated FKBP12/ligand systems is significantly reduced, from approximately 25,000 to 2500. The computations are very efficient and the statistical error is small ( approximately 1 kcal/mol). The calculated binding free energies are generally in good agreement with available experimental data and previous calculations (within approximately 2 kcal/mol). The present results indicate that a strategy based on FEP/MD simulations of a reduced GSBP atomic model sampled with conformational, translational, and orientational restraining potentials can be computationally inexpensive and accurate.
Project description:Accurate prediction of hydration free energies is a key objective of any free energy method that is applied to modeling and understanding interactions in the aqueous phase. Inhomogeneous fluid solvation theory (IFST) is a statistical mechanical method for calculating solvation free energies by quantifying the effect of a solute acting as a perturbation to bulk water. IFST has found wide application in understanding hydration phenomena in biological systems, but quantitative applications have not been comprehensively assessed. In this study, we report the hydration free energies of six simple solutes calculated using IFST and independently using free energy perturbation (FEP). This facilitates a validation of IFST that is independent of the accuracy of the force field. The results demonstrate that IFST shows good agreement with FEP, with an R(2) coefficient of determination of 0.99 and a mean unsigned difference of 0.7 kcal/mol. However, sampling is a major issue that plagues IFST calculations and the results suggest that a histogram method may require prohibitively long simulations to achieve convergence of the entropies, for bin sizes which effectively capture the underlying probability distributions. Results also highlight the sensitivity of IFST to the reference interaction energy of a water molecule in bulk, with a difference of 0.01 kcal/mol changing the predicted hydration free energies by approximately 2.4 kcal/mol for the systems studied here. One of the major advantages of IFST over perturbation methods such as FEP is that the systems are spatially decomposed to consider the contribution of specific regions to the total solvation free energies. Visualizing these contributions can yield detailed insights into solvation thermodynamics. An insight from this work is the identification and explanation of regions with unfavorable free energy density relative to bulk water. These regions contribute unfavorably to the hydration free energy. Further work is necessary before IFST can be extended to yield accurate predictions of binding free energies, but the work presented here demonstrates its potential.
Project description:Replica-exchange molecular dynamics (REMD) has been proven to efficiently improve the convergence of free-energy perturbation (FEP) calculations involving considerable reorganization of their surrounding. We previously introduced the FEP/(?,H)-REMD algorithm for ligand binding, in which replicas along the alchemical thermodynamic coupling axis ? were expanded as a series of Hamiltonian boosted replicas along a second axis to form a two-dimensional replica-exchange exchange map [Jiang, W.; Roux, B., J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2010, 6 (9), 2559-2565]. Aiming to achieve a similar performance at a lower computational cost, we propose here a modified version of this algorithm in which only the end-states along the alchemical axis are augmented by boosted replicas. The reduced FEP/(?,H)-REMD method with one-dimensional unbiased alchemical thermodynamic coupling axis ? is implemented on the basis of generic multiple copy algorithm (MCA) module of the biomolecular simulation program NAMD. The flexible MCA framework of NAMD enables a user to design customized replica-exchange patterns through Tcl scripting in the context of a highly parallelized simulation program without touching the source code. Two Hamiltonian tempering boosting scheme were examined with the new algorithm: a first one based on potential energy rescaling of a preidentified "solute" and a second one via the introduction of flattening torsional free-energy barriers. As two illustrative examples with reliable experiment data, the absolute binding free energies of p-xylene and n-butylbenzene to the nonpolar cavity of the L99A mutant of T4 lysozyme were calculated. The tests demonstrate that the new protocol efficiently enhances the sampling of torsional motions for backbone and side chains around the binding pocket and accelerates the convergence of the free-energy computations.
Project description:Increasing the accuracy of the evaluation of ligand-binding energies is one of the most important tasks of current computational biology. Here we explore the accuracy of free energy perturbation (FEP) approaches by comparing the performance of a "regular" FEP method to the one using replica exchange to enhance the sampling on a well-defined benchmark. The examination was limited to the so-called alchemical perturbations which are restricted to a fragment of the drug, and therefore, the calculation is a relative one rather than the absolute binding energy of the drug. Overall, our calculations reach the 1 kcal/mol accuracy limit. It is also shown that the accurate prediction of the position of water molecules around the binding pocket is important for FEP calculations. Interestingly, the replica exchange method does not significantly improve the accuracy of binding energies, suggesting that we reach the limit where the force field quality is a critical factor for accurate calculations.
Project description:Monte Carlo free energy perturbation (MC/FEP) calculations have been applied to compute the relative binding affinities of 17 congeneric pyridazo-pyrimidinone inhibitors of the protein p38? MAP kinase. Overall correlation with experiment was found to be modest when the complexes were hydrated using a traditional procedure with a stored solvent box. Significant improvements in accuracy were obtained when the MC/FEP calculations were repeated using initial solvent distributions optimized by the water placement algorithm JAWS. The results underscore the importance of accurate placement of water molecules in a ligand binding site for the reliable prediction of relative free energies of binding.
Project description:Potential of mean force (PMF) calculations are used to characterize the free energy landscape of protein-lipid and protein-protein association within membranes. Coarse-grained simulations allow binding free energies to be determined with reasonable statistical error. This accuracy relies on defining a good collective variable to describe the binding and unbinding transitions, and upon criteria for assessing the convergence of the simulation toward representative equilibrium sampling. As examples, we calculate protein-lipid binding PMFs for ANT/cardiolipin and Kir2.2/PIP2, using umbrella sampling on a distance coordinate. These highlight the importance of replica exchange between windows for convergence. The use of two independent sets of simulations, initiated from bound and unbound states, provide strong evidence for simulation convergence. For a model protein-protein interaction within a membrane, center-of-mass distance is shown to be a poor collective variable for describing transmembrane helix-helix dimerization. Instead, we employ an alternative intermolecular distance matrix RMS (DRMS) coordinate to obtain converged PMFs for the association of the glycophorin transmembrane domain. While the coarse-grained force field gives a reasonable Kd for dimerization, the majority of the bound population is revealed to be in a near-native conformation. Thus, the combination of a refined reaction coordinate with improved sampling reveals previously unnoticed complexities of the dimerization free energy landscape. We propose the use of replica-exchange umbrella sampling starting from different initial conditions as a robust approach for calculation of the binding energies in membrane simulations.
Project description:Estimating the correct binding modes of ligands in protein-ligand complexes is crucial not only in the drug discovery process but also for elucidating potential toxicity mechanisms. In the current paper, we propose a computational modeling workflow using the combination of docking, classical molecular dynamics (cMD), accelerated molecular dynamics (aMD) and free-energy perturbation (FEP+ protocol) for identification of possible ligand binding modes. It was applied for investigation of selected perfluorocarboxyl acids (PFCAs) in the PPAR? nuclear receptor. Although both regular and induced fit docking failed to reproduce the experimentally determined binding mode of the ligands when docked into a non-native X-ray structure, cMD and aMD simulations successfully identified the most probable binding conformations. Moreover, multiple binding modes were identified for all of these compounds and the shorter-chain PFCAs continuously moved between a few energetically favorable binding conformations. On the basis of MD predictions of binding conformations, we applied the default and also redesigned FEP+ sampling protocols, which accurately reproduced experimental differences in the binding energies. Thus, the preliminary MD simulations can also provide helpful information about correct setup of the FEP+ calculations. These results show that the PFCA binding modes were accurately predicted and that the FEP+ protocol can be used to estimate free energies of binding of flexible ligands that are not typical druglike compounds. Our in silico workflow revealed the specific ligand-residue interactions within the ligand binding domain and the main characteristics of the PFCAs, and it was concluded that these compounds are week PPAR? partial agonists. This work also suggests a common pipeline for identification of ligand binding modes, ligand-protein dynamics description, and relative free-energy calculations.