Comparison of linear-scaling semiempirical methods and combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical methods for enzymic reactions. II. An energy decomposition analysis

Stephen J. Titmuss, Peter L. Cummins, Alistair P. Rendell, Andrey A. Bliznyuk, Jill E. Gready

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26 Citations (Scopus)


QM/MM methods have been developed as a computationally feasible solution to QM simulation of chemical processes, such as enzyme-catalyzed reactions, within a more approximate MM representation of the condensed-phase environment. However, there has been no independent method for checking the quality of this representation, especially for highly nonisotropic protein environments such as those surrounding enzyme active sites. Hence, the validity of QM/MM methods is largely untested. Here we use the possibility of performing all-QM calculations at the semiempirical PM3 level with a linear-scaling method (MOZYME) to assess the performance of a QM/MM method (PM3/AMBER94 force field). Using two model pathways for the hydride-ion transfer reaction of the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase studied previously (Titmuss et al., Chem Phys Lett 2000, 320, 169-176), we have analyzed the reaction energy contributions (QM, QM/MM, and MM) from the QM/MM results and compared them with analogous-region components calculated via an energy partitioning scheme implemented into MOZYME. This analysis further divided the MOZYME components into Coulomb, resonance and exchange energy terms. For the model in which the MM coordinates are kept fixed during the reaction, we find that the MOZYME and QM/MM total energy profiles agree very well, but that there are significant differences in the energy components. Most significantly there is a large change (∼16 kcal/mol) in the MOZYME MM component due to polarization of the MM region surrounding the active site, and which arises mostly from MM atoms close to (<10 Å) the active-site QM region, which is not modelled explicitly by our QM/MM method. However, for the model where the MM coordinates are allowed to vary during the reaction, we find large differences in the MOZYME and QM/MM total energy profiles, with a discrepancy of 52 kcal/mol between the relative reaction (product-reactant) energies. This is largely due to a difference in the MM energies of 58 kcal/mol, of which we can attribute ∼40 kcal/mol to geometry effects in the MM region and the remainder, as before, to MM region polarization. Contrary to the fixed-geometry model, there is no correlation of the MM energy changes with distance from the QM region, nor are they contributed by only a few residues. Overall, the results suggest that merely extending the size of the QM region in the QM/MM calculation is not a universal solution to the MOZYME- and QM/MM-method differences. They also suggest that attaching physical significance to MOZYME Coulomb, resonance and exchange components is problematic. Although we conclude that it would be possible to reparameterize the QM/MM force field to reproduce MOZYME energies, a better way to account for both the effects of the protein environment and known deficiencies in semiempirical methods would be to parameterize the force field based on data from DFT or ab initio QM linear-scaling calculations. Such a force field could be used efficiently in MD simulations to calculate free energies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1314-1322
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Computational Chemistry
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Force fields
  • Hydride ion
  • Polarization
  • Protein environment
  • Reaction coordinate


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