A force field for virtual atom molecular mechanics of proteins

Anil Korkut, Wayne A. Hendrickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations


Activities of many biological macromolecules involve large conformational transitions for which crystallography can specify atomic details of alternative end states, but the course of transitions is often beyond the reach of computations based on full-atomic potential functions. We have developed a coarse-grained force field for molecular mechanics calculations based on the virtual interactions of Cα atoms in protein molecules. This force field is parameterized based on the statistical distribution of the energy terms extracted from crystallographic data, and it is formulated to capture features dependent on secondary structure and on residue-specific contact information. The resulting force field is applied to energy minimization and normal mode analysis of several proteins. We find robust convergence in minimizations to low energies and energy gradients with low degrees of structural distortion, and atomic fluctuations calculated from the normal mode analyses correlate well with the experimental B-factors obtained from high-resolution crystal structures. These findings suggest that the virtual atom force field is a suitable tool for various molecular mechanics applications on large macromolecular systems undergoing large conformational changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15667-15672
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 15 2009


  • Energy minimization
  • Normal modes
  • Transition pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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