Inclusion of many-body effects in the additive CHARMM protein CMAP potential results in enhanced cooperativity of -helix and -hairpin formation. Academic Article uri icon


  • Folding simulations on peptides and proteins using empirical force fields have demonstrated the sensitivity of the results to details of the backbone potential. A recently revised version of the additive CHARMM protein force field, which includes optimization of the backbone CMAP potential to achieve good balance between different types of secondary structure, correcting the -helical bias present in the former CHARMM22/CMAP energy function, is shown to result in improved cooperativity for the helix-coil transition. This is due to retention of the empirical corrections introduced in the original CMAP to reproduce folded protein structures-corrections that capture many-body effects missing from an energy surface fitted to gas phase calculations on dipeptides. The experimental temperature dependence of helix formation in (AAQAA)(3) and parameters for helix nucleation and elongation are in much better agreement with experiment than those obtained with other recent force fields. In contrast, CMAP parameters derived by fitting to a vacuum quantum mechanical surface for the alanine dipeptide do not reproduce the enhanced cooperativity, showing that the empirical backbone corrections, and not some other feature of the force field, are responsible. We also find that the cooperativity of -hairpin formation is much improved relative to other force fields we have studied. Comparison with (,) distributions from the Protein Data Bank further justifies the inclusion of many-body effects in the CMAP. These results suggest that the revised energy function will be suitable for both simulations of unfolded or intrinsically disordered proteins and for investigating protein-folding mechanisms.

published proceedings

  • Biophys J

author list (cited authors)

  • Best, R. B., Mittal, J., Feig, M., & MacKerell, A. D.

citation count

  • 110

complete list of authors

  • Best, Robert B||Mittal, Jeetain||Feig, Michael||MacKerell, Alexander D

publication date

  • September 2012