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J Chem Phys. 2008 Jun 28;128(24):244103. doi: 10.1063/1.2916718.

Probability distributions of molecular observables computed from Markov models.

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DFG Research Center Matheon, FU Berlin, Arnimallee 6, 14159 Berlin, Germany.


Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations can be used to estimate transition rates between conformational substates of the simulated molecule. Such an estimation is associated with statistical uncertainty, which depends on the number of observed transitions. In turn, it induces uncertainties in any property computed from the simulation, such as free energy differences or the time scales involved in the system's kinetics. Assessing these uncertainties is essential for testing the reliability of a given observation and also to plan further simulations in such a way that the most serious uncertainties will be reduced with minimal effort. Here, a rigorous statistical method is proposed to approximate the complete statistical distribution of any observable of an MD simulation provided that one can identify conformational substates such that the transition process between them may be modeled with a memoryless jump process, i.e., Markov or Master equation dynamics. The method is based on sampling the statistical distribution of Markov transition matrices that is induced by the observed transition events. It allows physically meaningful constraints to be included, such as sampling only matrices that fulfill detailed balance, or matrices that produce a predefined equilibrium distribution of states. The method is illustrated on mus MD simulations of a hexapeptide for which the distributions and uncertainties of the free energy differences between conformations, the transition matrix elements, and the transition matrix eigenvalues are estimated. It is found that both constraints, detailed balance and predefined equilibrium distribution, can significantly reduce the uncertainty of some observables.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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