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J Phys Chem B. 2011 Jul 28;115(29):9261-70. doi: 10.1021/jp2016006. Epub 2011 Jul 1.

Benchmarking AMBER force fields for RNA: comparisons to NMR spectra for single-stranded r(GACC) are improved by revised χ torsions.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


Accurately modeling unpaired regions of RNA is important for predicting structure, dynamics, and thermodynamics of folded RNA. Comparisons between NMR data and molecular dynamics simulations provide a test of force fields used for modeling. Here, NMR spectroscopy, including NOESY, (1)H-(31)P HETCOR, DQF-COSY, and TOCSY, was used to determine conformational preferences for single-stranded GACC RNA. The spectra are consistent with a conformational ensemble containing major and minor A-form-like structures. In a series of 50 ns molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with the AMBER99 force field in explicit solvent, initial A-form-like structures rapidly evolve to disordered conformations. A set of 50 ns simulations with revised χ torsions (AMBER99χ force field) gives two primary conformations, consistent with the NMR spectra. A single 1.9 μs MD simulation with the AMBER99χ force field showed that the major and minor conformations are retained for almost 68% of the time in the first 700 ns, with multiple transformations from A-form to non-A-form conformations. For the rest of the simulation, random-coil structures and a stable non-A-form conformation inconsistent with NMR spectra were seen. Evidently, the AMBER99χ force field improves structural predictions for single-stranded GACC RNA compared to the AMBER99 force field, but further force field improvements are needed.

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