Improved Parametrization of Li+, Na+, K+, and Mg2+ Ions for All-Atom Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Nucleic Acid Systems

Jejoong Yoo, and Aleksei Aksimentiev
The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 3 45-50 (2012)
DOI:10.1021/jz201501a  BibTex

Atomic-scale modeling of compacted nucleic acids has the ability to reveal the inner workings of spectacular biomolecular machines, yet the outcome of such modeling efforts sensitively depends on the accuracy of the underlying computational models. Our molecular dynamics simulations of an array of 64 parallel duplex DNA revealed considerable artifacts of cation−DNA phosphate interactions in CHARMM and AMBER parameter sets: both the DNA arrangement and the pressure inside the DNA arrays were found to be in considerable disagreement with experiment. To improve the models, we fine-tuned van der Waals interaction parameters for specific ion pairs to reproduce experimental osmotic pressure of binary electrolyte solutions of biologically relevant ions. Repeating the DNA array simulations using our parameters produced results consistent with experiment. Our improved parametrization can be directly applied to molecular dynamics simulations of various charged biomolecular systems, including nucleic acids, proteins, and lipid bilayer membranes.