N-Acetyl-β-glucosamine (NAG) is an important moiety of glycoproteins and is involved in many biological functions. However, conformational and dynamical properties of NAG molecules in aqueous solution, the most common biological environment, remain ambiguous due to limitations of experimental methods. Increasing efforts are made to probe structural properties of NAG and NAG-containing macromolecules, like peptidoglycans and polymeric chitin, at the atomic level using molecular dynamics simulations. In this work, we develop a polarizable carbohydrate force field for NAG and contrast simulation results of various properties using this novel force field and an analogous nonpolarizable (fixed charge) model. Aqueous solutions of NAG and its oligomers are investigated; we explore conformational properties (rotatable bond geometry), electrostatic properties (dipole moment distribution), dynamical properties (self-diffusion coefficient), hydrogen bonding (water bridge structure and dynamics), and free energy of hydration. The fixed-charge carbohydrate force field exhibits deviations from the gas phase relative rotation energy of exocyclic hydroxymethyl side chain and of chair/boat ring distortion. The polarizable force field predicts conformational properties in agreement with corresponding first-principles results. NAG–water hydrogen bonding pattern is studied through radial distribution functions (RDFs) and correlation functions. Intermolecular hydrogen bonding between solute and solvent is found to stabilize NAG solution structures while intramolecular hydrogen bonds define glycosidic linkage geometry of NAG oligomers. The electrostatic component of hydration free energy is highly dependent on force field atomic partial charges, influencing a more favorable free energy of hydration in the fixed-charge model compared to the polarizable model. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Comput Chem, 2011
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