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Evaluating Geometric Definitions of Stacking for RNA Dinucleoside Monophosphates Using Molecular Mechanics Calculations.

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Taghavi, Amirhossein 
Riveros, Ivan 


RNA modulation via small molecules is a novel approach in pharmacotherapies, where the determination of the structural properties of RNA motifs is considered a promising way to develop drugs capable of targeting RNA structures to control diseases. However, due to the complexity and dynamic nature of RNA molecules, the determination of RNA structures using experimental approaches is not always feasible, and computational models employing force fields can provide important insight. The quality of the force field will determine how well the predictions are compared to experimental observables. Stacking in nucleic acids is one such structural property, originating mainly from London dispersion forces, which are quantum mechanical and are included in molecular mechanics force fields through nonbonded interactions. Geometric descriptions are utilized to decide if two residues are stacked and hence to calculate the stacking free energies for RNA dinucleoside monophosphates (DNMPs) through statistical mechanics for comparison with experimental thermodynamics data. Here, we benchmark four different stacking definitions using molecular dynamics (MD) trajectories for 16 RNA DNMPs produced by two different force fields (RNA-IL and ff99OL3) and show that our stacking definition better correlates with the experimental thermodynamics data. While predictions within an accuracy of 0.2 kcal/mol at 300 K were observed in RNA CC, CU, UC, AG, GA, and GG, stacked states of purine-pyrimidine and pyrimidine-purine DNMPs, respectively, were typically underpredicted and overpredicted. Additionally, population distributions of RNA UU DNMPs were poorly predicted by both force fields, implying a requirement for further force field revisions. We further discuss the differences predicted by each RNA force field. Finally, we show that discrete path sampling (DPS) calculations can provide valuable information and complement the MD simulations. We propose the use of experimental thermodynamics data for RNA DNMPs as benchmarks for testing RNA force fields.



DNA, Dinucleoside Phosphates, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Nucleic Acid Conformation, Purines, Pyrimidines, RNA, Thermodynamics

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J Chem Theory Comput

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American Chemical Society (ACS)