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J Chem Theory Comput. 2012 Feb 14;8(2):735-48. doi: 10.1021/ct2007692. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

Comparison of Cellulose Iβ Simulations with Three Carbohydrate Force Fields.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines , Golden, Colorado, United States.
Department of Food Science, Cornell University , Ithaca, New York, United States.
Wallenberg Wood Science Center, Royal Institute of Technology , Stockholm, Sweden.


Molecular dynamics simulations of cellulose have recently become more prevalent due to increased interest in renewable energy applications, and many atomistic and coarse-grained force fields exist that can be applied to cellulose. However, to date no systematic comparison between carbohydrate force fields has been conducted for this important system. To that end, we present a molecular dynamics simulation study of hydrated, 36-chain cellulose Iβ microfibrils at room temperature with three carbohydrate force fields (CHARMM35, GLYCAM06, and Gromos 45a4) up to the near-microsecond time scale. Our results indicate that each of these simulated microfibrils diverge from the cellulose Iβ crystal structure to varying degrees under the conditions tested. The CHARMM35 and GLYCAM06 force fields eventually result in structures similar to those observed at 500 K with the same force fields, which are consistent with the experimentally observed high-temperature behavior of cellulose I. The third force field, Gromos 45a4, produces behavior significantly different from experiment, from the other two force fields, and from previously reported simulations with this force field using shorter simulation times and constrained periodic boundary conditions. For the GLYCAM06 force field, initial hydrogen-bond conformations and choice of electrostatic scaling factors significantly affect the rate of structural divergence. Our results suggest dramatically different time scales for convergence of properties of interest, which is important in the design of computational studies and comparisons to experimental data. This study highlights that further experimental and theoretical work is required to understand the structure of small diameter cellulose microfibrils typical of plant cellulose.

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