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Chem Rev. 2018 Apr 25;118(8):4177-4338. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.7b00427. Epub 2018 Jan 3.

RNA Structural Dynamics As Captured by Molecular Simulations: A Comprehensive Overview.

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Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences , Kralovopolska 135 , Brno 612 65 , Czech Republic.
Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati , Via Bonomea 265 , Trieste 34136 , Italy.
Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials, Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Science , Palacky University Olomouc , 17. listopadu 12 , Olomouc 771 46 , Czech Republic.
Structural Biology and NMR Laboratory, Department of Biology , University of Copenhagen , Copenhagen 2200 , Denmark.
Single Molecule Analysis Group and Center for RNA Biomedicine, Department of Chemistry , University of Michigan , Ann Arbor , Michigan 48109 , United States.


With both catalytic and genetic functions, ribonucleic acid (RNA) is perhaps the most pluripotent chemical species in molecular biology, and its functions are intimately linked to its structure and dynamics. Computer simulations, and in particular atomistic molecular dynamics (MD), allow structural dynamics of biomolecular systems to be investigated with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution. We here provide a comprehensive overview of the fast-developing field of MD simulations of RNA molecules. We begin with an in-depth, evaluatory coverage of the most fundamental methodological challenges that set the basis for the future development of the field, in particular, the current developments and inherent physical limitations of the atomistic force fields and the recent advances in a broad spectrum of enhanced sampling methods. We also survey the closely related field of coarse-grained modeling of RNA systems. After dealing with the methodological aspects, we provide an exhaustive overview of the available RNA simulation literature, ranging from studies of the smallest RNA oligonucleotides to investigations of the entire ribosome. Our review encompasses tetranucleotides, tetraloops, a number of small RNA motifs, A-helix RNA, kissing-loop complexes, the TAR RNA element, the decoding center and other important regions of the ribosome, as well as assorted others systems. Extended sections are devoted to RNA-ion interactions, ribozymes, riboswitches, and protein/RNA complexes. Our overview is written for as broad of an audience as possible, aiming to provide a much-needed interdisciplinary bridge between computation and experiment, together with a perspective on the future of the field.

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