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Validating and improving elastic network models with molecular dynamics simulations



Elastic network models (ENMs) are a class of simple models intended to represent the collective motions of proteins. In contrast to all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, the low computational investment required to use an ENM makes them ideal for speculative hypothesis-testing situations. Historically, ENMs have been validated via comparison to crystallographic B-factors, but this comparison is relatively low-resolution and only tests the predictions of relative flexibility. In this work, we systematically validate and optimize a number of ENM-type models by quantitatively comparing their predictions to microsecond-scale all-atom simulations of three different G protein coupled receptors. We show that, despite their apparent simplicity, well-optimized ENMs perform remarkably well, reproducing the protein fluctuations with an accuracy comparable to what one would expect from all-atom simulations run for several hundred nanoseconds. Proteins 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.