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Ionic strength independence of charge distributions in solvation of biomolecules
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Electrostatic forces enormously impact the structure, interactions, and function of biomolecules. We perform all-atom molecular dynamics simulations for 5 proteins and 5 RNAs to determine the dependence on ionic strength of the ion and water charge distributions surrounding the biomolecules, as well as the contributions of ions to the electrostatic free energy of interaction between the biomolecule and the surrounding salt solution (for a total of 40 different biomolecule/solvent combinations). Although water provides the dominant contribution to the charge density distribution and to the electrostatic potential even in 1M NaCl solutions, the contributions of water molecules and of ions to the total electrostatic interaction free energy with the solvated biomolecule are comparable. The electrostatic biomolecule/solvent interaction energies and the total charge distribution exhibit a remarkable insensitivity to salt concentrations over a huge range of salt concentrations (20 mM to 1M NaCl). The electrostatic potentials near the biomolecule's surface obtained from the MD simulations differ markedly, as expected, from the potentials predicted by continuum dielectric models, even though the total electrostatic interaction free energies are within 11% of each other.
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