Peptides mediate up to 40% of known protein-protein interactions in higher eukaryotes and play an important role in cellular signaling. However, it is challenging to simulate both binding and unbinding of peptides and calculate peptide binding free energies through conventional molecular dynamics, due to long biological timescales and extremely high flexibility of the peptides. Based on the Gaussian accelerated molecular dynamics (GaMD) enhanced sampling technique, we have developed a new computational method "Pep-GaMD," which selectively boosts essential potential energy of the peptide in order to effectively model its high flexibility. In addition, another boost potential is applied to the remaining potential energy of the entire system in a dual-boost algorithm. Pep-GaMD has been demonstrated on binding of three model peptides to the SH3 domains. Independent 1 µs dual-boost Pep-GaMD simulations have captured repetitive peptide dissociation and binding events, which enable us to calculate peptide binding thermodynamics and kinetics. The calculated binding free energies and kinetic rate constants agreed very well with available experimental data. Furthermore, the all-atom Pep-GaMD simulations have provided important insights into the mechanism of peptide binding to proteins that involves long-range electrostatic interactions and mainly conformational selection. In summary, Pep-GaMD provides a highly efficient, easy-to-use approach for unconstrained enhanced sampling and calculations of peptide binding free energies and kinetics.
This work describes an example of using Accelerated MD in kinetic calculations.