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Acc Chem Res. 2002 Jun;35(6):385-95.

Molecular dynamics simulations of biological reactions.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, University Park Campus, Los Angeles, California 90089-1062, USA.


This review considers the author perspective on the emergence of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of biological processes. It starts with the 1976 simulation of the primary event in rhodopsin, moves to the earliest simulations of enzymatic reactions and electron transfer reactions and ends up with recent simulations of proton translocations and ion transport in proteins. The emphasis is placed on our progress in simulations of actual biological reactions and functional properties, rather than on studies of general properties such as structure and thermal motions. In most cases it has been possible to develop special strategies that capture the relevant dynamics of the given biological process. The predictive power of our early simulations of fast biological process (e.g. vision and photosynthesis) and the insight obtained from these studies is pointed out. Critical examinations of dynamical effects in different biological processes is reviewed. This includes the finding that dynamical effects are unlikely to contribute significantly to enzyme catalysis or to other processes with significant activation barriers. Even in the case of ion channels it is found that the most important effects are associated with energetics rather than dynamics. Nevertheless, MD simulations provide what is probably the most realistic description of the actual reactive events. The resulting insight is crucial in studies of fast photobiological reactions and instructive in cases of slower processes.

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