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Keywords:

  • cellulose;
  • microfibril twist;
  • molecular dynamics;
  • GLYCAM

ABSTRACT

Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of cellulose microfibrils are pertinent to the paper, textile, and biofuels industries for their unique capacity to characterize dynamic behavior and atomic-level interactions with solvent molecules and cellulase enzymes. While high-resolution crystallographic data have established a solid basis for computational analysis of cellulose, previous work has demonstrated a tendency for modeled microfibrils to diverge from the linear experimental structure and adopt a twisted conformation. Here, we investigate the dependence of this twisting behavior on computational approximations and establish the theoretical basis for its occurrence. We examine the role of solvent, the effect of nonbonded force field parameters [partial charges and van der Waals (vdW) contributions], and the use of explicitly modeled oxygen lone pairs in both the solute and solvent. Findings suggest that microfibril twisting is favored by vdW interactions, and counteracted by both intrachain hydrogen bonds and solvent effects at the microfibril surface. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 99: 746–756, 2013.