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Biophys J. Oct 2002; 83(4): 1731–1748.
PMCID: PMC1302268

Combining conformational flexibility and continuum electrostatics for calculating pK(a)s in proteins.

Abstract

Protein stability and function relies on residues being in their appropriate ionization states at physiological pH. In situ residue pK(a)s also provides a sensitive measure of the local protein environment. Multiconformation continuum electrostatics (MCCE) combines continuum electrostatics and molecular mechanics force fields in Monte Carlo sampling to simultaneously calculate side chain ionization and conformation. The response of protein to charges is incorporated both in the protein dielectric constant (epsilon(prot)) of four and by explicit conformational changes. The pK(a) of 166 residues in 12 proteins was determined. The root mean square error is 0.83 pH units, and >90% have errors of <1 pH units whereas only 3% have errors >2 pH units. Similar results are found with crystal and solution structures, showing that the method's explicit conformational sampling reduces sensitivity to the initial structure. The outcome also changes little with protein dielectric constant (epsilon(prot) 4-20). Multiconformation continuum electrostatics titrations show coupling of conformational flexibility and changes in ionization state. Examples are provided where ionizable side chain position (protein G), Asn orientation (lysozyme), His tautomer distribution (RNase A), and phosphate ion binding (RNase A and H) change with pH. Disallowing these motions changes the calculated pK(a).

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Selected References

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