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J Chem Phys. 2010 Jul 28;133(4):044114. doi: 10.1063/1.3462276.

Free energy calculation using molecular dynamics simulation combined with the three dimensional reference interaction site model theory. I. Free energy perturbation and thermodynamic integration along a coupling parameter.

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Department of Theoretical and Computational Molecular Science, Institute for Molecular Science, 38 Nishigo-Naka, Myodaiji, Okazaki, Aichi 444-8585, Japan.


This article proposes a free energy calculation method based on the molecular dynamics simulation combined with the three dimensional reference interaction site model theory. This study employs the free energy perturbation (FEP) and the thermodynamic integration (TDI) along the coupling parameters to control the interaction potential. To illustrate the method, we applied it to a complex formation process in aqueous solutions between a crown ether molecule 18-Crown-6 (18C6) and a potassium ion as one of the simplest model systems. Two coupling parameters were introduced to switch the Lennard-Jones potential and the Coulomb potential separately. We tested two coupling procedures: one is a "sequential-coupling" to couple the Lennard-Jones interaction followed by the Coulomb coupling, and the other is a "mixed-coupling" to couple both the Lennard-Jones and the Coulomb interactions together as much as possible. The sequential-coupling both for FEP and TDI turned out to be accurate and easily handled since it was numerically well-behaved. Furthermore, it was found that the sequential-coupling had relatively small statistical errors. TDI along the mixed-coupling integral path was to be carried out carefully, paying attention to a numerical behavior of the integrand. The present model system exhibited a nonmonotonic behavior in the integrands for TDI along the mixed-coupling integral path and also showed a relatively large statistical error. A coincidence within a statistical error was obtained among the results of the free energy differences evaluated by FEP, TDI with the sequential-coupling, and TDI with the mixed-coupling. The last one is most attractive in terms of the computer power and is accurate enough if one uses a proper set of windows, taking the numerical behavior of the integrands into account. TDI along the sequential-coupling integral path would be the most convenient among the methods we tested, since it seemed to be well-balanced between the computational load and the accuracy. The numerical results reported in this article qualitatively agree with the experimental data for the potassium ion recognition by the 18C6 in aqueous solution.


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