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An implicit divalent counterion force field for RNA molecular dynamics
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How to properly account for polyvalent counterions in a molecular dynamics simulation of polyelectrolytes such as nucleic acids remains an open question. Not only do counterions such as Mg2+ screen electrostatic interactions, they also produce attractive intrachain interactions that stabilize secondary and tertiary structures. Here, we show how a simple force field derived from a recently reported implicit counterion model can be integrated into a molecular dynamics simulation for RNAs to realistically reproduce key structural details of both single-stranded and base-paired RNA constructs. This divalent counterion model is computationally efficient. It works with existing atomistic force fields, or coarse-grained models may be tuned to work with it. We provide optimized parameters for a coarse-grained RNA model that takes advantage of this new counterion force field. Using the new model, we illustrate how the structural flexibility of RNA two-way junctions is modified under different salt conditions.
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