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J Chem Theory Comput. 2011 Jun 2;7(7):2224-2232.

Effects of Biomolecular Flexibility on Alchemical Calculations of Absolute Binding Free Energies.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, U.S.A.


The independent trajectory thermodynamic integration (IT-TI) approach (Lawrenz et. al J. Chem. Theory. Comput. 2009, 5:1106-1116(1)) for free energy calculations with distributed computing is employed to study two distinct cases of protein-ligand binding: first, the influenza surface protein N1 neuraminidase bound to the inhibitor oseltamivir, and second, the M. tuberculosis enzyme RmlC complexed with the molecule CID 77074. For both systems, finite molecular dynamics (MD) sampling and varied molecular flexibility give rise to IT-TI free energy distributions that are remarkably centered on the target experimental values, with a spread directly related to protein, ligand, and solvent dynamics. Using over 2 μs of total MD simulation, alternative protocols for the practical, general implementation of IT-TI are investigated, including the optimal use of distributed computing, the total number of alchemical intermediates, and the procedure to perturb electrostatics and van der Waals interactions. A protocol that maximizes predictive power and computational efficiency is proposed. IT-TI outperforms traditional TI predictions and allows a straightforward evaluation of the reliability of free energy estimates. Our study has broad implications for the use of distributed computing in free energy calculations of macromolecular systems.

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