Comparison of molecular dynamics and harmonic mode calculations on RNA

Martin Zacharias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Conformational fluctuations of a double-stranded RNA oligonucleotide have been calculated from a two nanosecond molecular dynamics simulation including explicit waters and ions and from a harmonic mode analysis. The harmonic mode analysis was performed in the absence of solvent using various effective dielectric screening functions. RNA flexibility was analyzed and compared at the level of atomic position fluctuations, helical base-pair descriptor fluctuations and global helix bending, stretching, and twisting flexibilities. Although quantitative differences were found, the qualitative pattern of atomic position and helical descriptor fluctuations along the sequence was similar for both methods. For the helical descriptor flexibility, the largest differences were observed for base-pair roll and rise that showed two times larger fluctuations in the molecular dynamics simulation. A significant overlap between the subspace spanned by soft principal components calculated from the molecular dynamics simulation and harmonic modes was found. Both approaches predict a negative covariation for most helical base-pair step descriptors of neighboring base pair steps (with the exception of rise), which tend to stiffen the RNA at the global level. The RNA persistence length extracted from the molecular dynamics simulation (350-600 angstrom) is smaller than the experimental value (approx. 720 angstrom) and estimates based on the harmonic mode approach (1100-1700 angstrom).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-560
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Harmonic modes
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Normal modes
  • Nucleic acid dynamics
  • RNA flexibility


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparison of molecular dynamics and harmonic mode calculations on RNA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this