The Amber ff99 Force Field Predicts Relative Free Energy Changes for RNA Helix Formation
ABSTRACT The ability of the Amber ff99 force field to predict relative free energies of RNA helix formation was investigated. The test systems were three hexaloop RNA hairpins with identical loops and varying stems. The potential of mean force of stretching the hairpins from the native state to an extended conformation was calculated with umbrella sampling. Because the hairpins have identical loop sequence, the differences in free energy changes are only from the stem composition. The Amber ff99 force field was able to correctly predict the order of stabilities of the hairpins, although the magnitude of the free energy change is larger than that determined by optical melting experiments. The two measurements cannot be compared directly because the unfolded state in the optical melting experiments is a random coil, while the end state in the umbrella sampling simulations was an elongated chain. The calculations can be compared to reference data by using a thermodynamic cycle. By applying the thermodynamic cycle to the transitions between the hairpins using simulations and nearest neighbor data, agreement was found to be within the sampling error of simulations, thus demonstrating that ff99 force field is able to accurately predict relative free energies of RNA helix formation.
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ABSTRACT: Guanine to inosine (G→I) substitution has often been used to study various properties of nucleic acids. Inosine differs from guanine only by loss of the N2 amino group while both bases have similar electrostatic potentials. Therefore, G→I substitution appears to be optimally suited to probe structural and thermodynamics effects of single H-bonds and atomic groups. However, recent experiments have revealed substantial difference in free energy impact of G→I substitution in the context of B-DNA and A-RNA canonical helices, suggesting that the free energy changes reflect context-dependent balance of energy contributions rather than intrinsic strength of a single H-bond. In the present study, we complement the experiments by free energy computations using thermodynamics integration method based on extended explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations. The computations successfully reproduce the basic qualitative difference in free energy impact of G→I substitution in B-DNA and A-RNA helices although the magnitude of the effect is somewhat underestimated. The computations, however, do not reproduce the salt dependence of the free energy changes. We tentatively suggest that the different effect of G→I substitution in A-RNA and B-DNA may be related to different topology of these helices, which affect the electrostatic interactions between the base pairs and the negatively charged backbone. Limitations of the computations are briefly discussed.The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 01/2013; 117(6). DOI:10.1021/jp311180u · 3.30 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: RNA hairpin loops represent important RNA motifs with indispensable biological functions in RNA folding and tertiary interactions, with the 5′-UNCG-3′ and 5′-GNRA-3′ families being the most abundant. Molecular dynamics simulations represent a powerful method to investigate the structure, folding, and function of these tetraloops (TLs), but previous AMBER force fields were unable to maintain even the native structure of small TL RNAs. Here, we have used Replica Exchange Molecular Dynamics (REMD) with our recent reparameterization of AMBER RNA force field to study the folding of RNA hairpins containing representatives UNCG and GNRA TLs. We find that in each case, we are able to reach conformations within 2 Å of the native structure, in contrast to results with earlier force fields. Although we find that the REMD simulation runs of a total of 19 μs (starting from both folded and unfolded state) in duration for each TL are still far from obtaining a representative equilibrium distribution at each temperature, we are nonetheless able to map the stable species on the folding energy landscape. The qualitative picture we obtain is consistent with experimental studies of RNA folding in that there are a number of stable on- and off-pathway intermediates en route to the native state. In particular, we have identified a misfolded-bulged state of GNRA TL, which shares many structural features with the X-ray structure of GNRA TL in the complex with restrictocin, namely the bulged out AL4 base. Since this is the same conformation observed in the complex of the TL with restrictocin, we argue that GNRA TL is able to bind restrictocin via a “conformational selection” mechanism, with the RL3 and AL4 bases being exposed to the solvent prior to binding. In addition we have identified a misfolded-anti state of UUCG TL, which is structurally close to the native state except that the GL4 nucleotide is in an anti-conformation instead of the native syn. Our data suggest that the UUCG misfolded-anti state may be a kinetic trap for the UUCG folding.Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation 04/2013; 9(4):2115–2125. DOI:10.1021/ct301086z · 5.31 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Hydrating water molecules are believed to be an inherent part of the RNA structure and have a considerable impact on RNA conformation. However, the magnitude and mechanism of the interplay between water molecules and the RNA structure are still poorly understood. In principle, such hydration effects can be studied by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. In our recent MD studies, we observed that the choice of water model has a visible impact on the predicted structure and structural dynamics of RNA and, in particular, has a larger effect than type, parametrization, and concentration of the ions. Furthermore, the water model effect is sequence dependent and modulates the sequence dependence of A-RNA helical parameters. Clearly, the sensitivity of A-RNA structural dynamics to the water model parametrization is a rather spurious effect that complicates MD studies of RNA molecules. These results nevertheless suggest that the sequence dependence of the A-RNA structure, usually attributed to base stacking, might be driven by the structural dynamics of specific hydration. Here, we present a systematic MD study that aimed to (i) clarify the atomistic mechanism of the water model sensitivity and (ii) discover whether and to what extent specific hydration modulates the A-RNA structural variability. We carried out an extended set of MD simulations of canonical A-RNA duplexes with TIP3P, TIP4P/2005, TIP5P, and SPC/E explicit water models and found that different water models provided a different extent of water bridging between 2′-OH groups across the minor groove, which in turn influences their distance and consequently also inclination, roll, and slide parameters. Minor groove hydration is also responsible for the sequence dependence of these helical parameters. Our simulations suggest that TIP5P is not optimal for RNA simulations.Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation 01/2014; 10(1):401-411. DOI:10.1021/ct400663s · 5.31 Impact Factor