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Biophys J. 2008 Aug;95(4):1590-9. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.108.133025. Epub 2008 May 2.

Molecular dynamics studies of polyethylene oxide and polyethylene glycol: hydrodynamic radius and shape anisotropy.

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Laboratory of Computational Biology, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


A revision (C35r) to the CHARMM ether force field is shown to reproduce experimentally observed conformational populations of dimethoxyethane. Molecular dynamics simulations of 9, 18, 27, and 36-mers of polyethylene oxide (PEO) and 27-mers of polyethylene glycol (PEG) in water based on C35r yield a persistence length lambda = 3.7 A, in quantitative agreement with experimentally obtained values of 3.7 A for PEO and 3.8 A for PEG; agreement with experimental values for hydrodynamic radii of comparably sized PEG is also excellent. The exponent upsilon relating the radius of gyration and molecular weight (R(g) proportional, variantM(w)(upsilon)) of PEO from the simulations equals 0.515 +/- 0.023, consistent with experimental observations that low molecular weight PEG behaves as an ideal chain. The shape anisotropy of hydrated PEO is 2.59:1.44:1.00. The dimension of the middle length for each of the polymers nearly equals the hydrodynamic radius R(h)obtained from diffusion measurements in solution. This explains the correspondence of R(h) and R(p), the pore radius of membrane channels: a polymer such as PEG diffuses with its long axis parallel to the membrane channel, and passes through the channel without substantial distortion.

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