Faculty Advisor

John C. MacDonald

Faculty Advisor

James P. Dittami

Faculty Advisor

George A. Kaminski

Faculty Advisor

Erkan Tuzel

Faculty Advisor

Arne Gericke


"The accurate, fast and low cost computational tools are indispensable for studying the structure and dynamics of biological macromolecules in aqueous solution. The goal of this thesis is development and validation of continuum Fuzzy-Border (FB) solvation model to work with the Polarizable Simulations Second-order Interaction Model (POSSIM) force field for proteins developed by Professor G A Kaminski. The implicit FB model has advantages over the popularly used Poisson Boltzmann (PB) solvation model. The FB continuum model attenuates the noise and convergence issues commonly present in numerical treatments of the PB model by employing fixed position cubic grid to compute interactions. It also uses either second or first-order approximation for the solvent polarization which is similar to the second-order explicit polarization applied in POSSIM force field. The FB model was first developed and parameterized with nonpolarizable OPLS-AA force field for small molecules which are not only important in themselves but also building blocks of proteins and peptide side chains. The hydration parameters are fitted to reproduce the experimental or quantum mechanical hydration energies of the molecules with the overall average unsigned error of ca. 0.076kcal/mol. It was further validated by computing the absolute pKa values of 11 substituted phenols with the average unsigned error of 0.41pH units in comparison with the quantum mechanical error of 0.38pH units for this set of molecules. There was a good transferability of hydration parameters and the results were produced only with fitting of the specific atoms to the hydration energy and pKa targets. This clearly demonstrates the numerical and physical basis of the model is good enough and with proper fitting can reproduce the acidity constants for other systems as well. After the successful development of FB model with the fixed charges OPLS-AA force field, it was expanded to permit simulations with Polarizable Simulations Second-order Interaction Model (POSSIM) force field. The hydration parameters of the small molecules representing analogues of protein side chains were fitted to their solvation energies at 298.15K with an average error of ca.0.136kcal/mol. Second, the resulting parameters were used to reproduce the pKa values of the reference systems and the carboxylic (Asp7, Glu10, Glu19, Asp27 and Glu43) and basic residues (Lys13, Lys29, Lys34, His52 and Lys55) of the turkey ovomucoid third domain (OMTKY3) protein. The overall average unsigned error in the pKa values of the acid residues was found to be 0.37pH units and the basic residues was 0.38 pH units compared to 0.58pH units and 0.72 pH units calculated previously using polarizable force field (PFF) and Poisson Boltzmann formalism (PBF) continuum solvation model. These results are produced with fitting of specific atoms of the reference systems and carboxylic and basic residues of the OMTKY3 protein. Since FB model has produced improved pKa shifts of carboxylic residues and basic protein residues in OMTKY3 protein compared to PBF/PFF, it suggests the methodology of first-order FB continuum solvation model works well in such calculations. In this study the importance of explicit treatment of the electrostatic polarization in calculating pKa of both acid and basic protein residues is also emphasized. Moreover, the presented results demonstrate not only the consistently good degree of accuracy of protein pKa calculations with the second-degree POSSIM approximation of the polarizable calculations and the first-order approximation used in the Fuzzy-Border model for the continuum solvation energy, but also a high degree of transferability of both the POSSIM and continuum solvent Fuzzy Border parameters. Therefore, the FB model of solvation combined with the POSSIM force field can be successfully applied to study the protein and protein-ligand systems in water. "


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemistry & Biochemistry

Project Type


Date Accepted





Continuum solvation model, Polarizable force field, Protein pKa, Protein force field