Factors affecting the accuracy of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are investigated by comparing generalized order parameters for backbone NH vectors of the B3 immunoglobulin-binding domain of streptococcal protein G (GB3) derived from simulations with values obtained from NMR spin relaxation (Yao L, Grishaev A, Cornilescu G, Bax A, J Am Chem Soc 2010;132:4295-4309.). Choices for many parameters of the simulations, such as buffer volume, water model, or salt concentration, have only minor influences on the resulting order parameters. In contrast, seemingly minor conformational differences in starting structures, such as orientations of sidechain hydroxyl groups, resulting from applying different protonation algorithms to the same structure, have major effects on backbone dynamics. Some, but not all, of these effects are mitigated by increased sampling in simulations. Most discrepancies between simulated and experimental results occur for residues located at the ends of secondary structures and involve large amplitude nanosecond timescale transitions between distinct conformational substates. These transitions result in autocorrelation functions for bond vector reorientation that do not converge when calculated over individual simulation blocks, typically of length similar to the overall rotational diffusion time. A test for convergence before averaging the order parameters from different blocks results in better agreement between order parameters calculated from different sets of simulations and with NMR-derived order parameters. Thus, MD-derived order parameters are more strongly affected by transitions between conformational substates than by fluctuations within individual substates themselves, while conformational differences in the starting structures affect the frequency and scale of such transitions. Proteins 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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