In this work, a new method for exploring conformational energy landscapes is described. The method, called transition-rapidly exploring random tree (T-RRT), combines ideas from statistical physics and robot path planning algorithms. A search tree is constructed on the conformational space starting from a given state. The tree expansion is driven by a double strategy: on the one hand, it is naturally biased toward yet unexplored regions of the space; on the other, a Monte Carlo-like transition test guides the expansion toward energetically favorable regions. The balance between these two strategies is automatically achieved due to a self-tuning mechanism. The method is able to efficiently find both energy minima and transition paths between them. As a proof of concept, the method is applied to two academic benchmarks and the alanine dipeptide. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Comput Chem, 2011
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