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J Phys Chem B. 2008 Jan 17;112(2):242-9. Epub 2007 Sep 19.

Revisiting the carboxylic acid dimers in aqueous solution: interplay of hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic interactions, and entropy.

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Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Carboxylic acid dimers are useful model systems for understanding the interplay of hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic effects, and entropy in self-association and assembly. Through extensive sampling with a classical force field and careful free energy analysis, it is demonstrated that both hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions are indeed important for dimerization of carboxylic acids (except formic acid). The dimers are only weakly ordered, and the degree of ordering increases with stronger hydrophobic interactions between longer alkyl chains. Comparison of calculated and experimental dimerization constants reveals a systematic tendency for excessive self-aggregation in current classical force fields. Qualitative and quantitative information on the thermodynamics of hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions derived from these simulations is in excellent agreement with existing results from experiment and theory. These results provide a verification from first principles of previous estimations based on two statistical mechanical hydrophobic theories. We also revisit and clarify the fundamental statistical thermodynamics formalism for calculating absolute binding constants, external entropy, and solvation entropy changes upon association from detailed free energy simulations. This analysis is believed to be useful for a wide range of applications including computational studies of protein-ligand and protein-protein binding.

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