Independent-Trajectories Thermodynamic-Integration Free-Energy Changes for Biomolecular Systems: Determinants of H5N1 Avian Influenza Virus Neuraminidase Inhibition by Peramivir


Free-energy changes are essential physicochemical quantities for understanding most biochemical processes. Yet, the application of accurate thermodynamic-integration (TI) computation to biological and macromolecular systems is limited by finite-sampling artifacts. In this paper, we employ independent-trajectories thermodynamic-integration (IT-TI) computation to estimate improved free-energy changes and their uncertainties for (bio)molecular systems. IT-TI aids sampling statistics of the thermodynamic macrostates for flexible associating partners by ensemble averaging of multiple, independent simulation trajectories. We study peramivir (PVR) inhibition of the H5N1 avian influenza virus neuraminidase flexible receptor (N1). Binding site loops 150 and 119 are highly mobile, as revealed by N1-PVR 20-ns molecular dynamics. Due to such heterogeneous sampling, standard TI binding free-energy estimates span a rather large free-energy range, from a 19% underestimation to a 29% overestimation of the experimental reference value (-62.2 +/- 1.8 kJ mol(-1)). Remarkably, our IT-TI binding free-energy estimate (-61.1 +/- 5.4 kJ mol(-1)) agrees with a 2% relative difference. In addition, IT-TI runs provide a statistics-based free-energy uncertainty for the process of interest. Using approximately 800 ns of overall sampling, we investigate N1-PVR binding determinants by IT-TI alchemical modifications of PVR moieties. These results emphasize the dominant electrostatic contribution, particularly through the N1 E277-PVR guanidinium interaction. Future drug development may be also guided by properly tuning ligand flexibility and hydrophobicity. IT-TI will allow estimation of relative free energies for systems of increasing size, with improved reliability by employing large-scale distributed computing.

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