Adaptive biasing combined with hamiltonian replica exchange to improve umbrella sampling free energy simulations

Fabian Zeller, Martin Zacharias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The accurate calculation of potentials of mean force for ligand-receptor binding is one of the most important applications of molecular simulation techniques. Typically, the separation distance between ligand and receptor is chosen as a reaction coordinate along which a PMF can be calculated with the aid of umbrella sampling (US) techniques. In addition, restraints can be applied on the relative position and orientation of the partner molecules to reduce accessible phase space. An approach combining such phase space reduction with flattening of the free energy landscape and configurational exchanges has been developed, which significantly improves the convergence of PMF calculations in comparison with standard umbrella sampling. The free energy surface along the reaction coordinate is smoothened by iteratively adapting biasing potentials corresponding to previously calculated PMFs. Configurations are allowed to exchange between the umbrella simulation windows via the Hamiltonian replica exchange method. The application to a DNA molecule in complex with a minor groove binding ligand indicates significantly improved convergence and complete reversibility of the sampling along the pathway. The calculated binding free energy is in excellent agreement with experimental results. In contrast, the application of standard US resulted in large differences between PMFs calculated for association and dissociation pathways. The approach could be a useful alternative to standard US for computational studies on biomolecular recognition processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-710
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 11 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


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