Validating Solution Ensembles from Molecular Dynamics Simulation by Wide-Angle X-ray Scattering Data


Wide-angle x-ray scattering (WAXS) experiments of biomolecules in solution have become increasingly popular because of technical advances in light sources and detectors. However, the structural interpretation of WAXS profiles is problematic, partly because accurate calculations of WAXS profiles from structural models have remained challenging. In this work, we present the calculation of WAXS profiles from explicit-solvent molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of five different proteins. Using only a single fitting parameter that accounts for experimental uncertainties because of the buffer subtraction and dark currents, we find excellent agreement to experimental profiles both at small and wide angles. Because explicit solvation eliminates free parameters associated with the solvation layer or the excluded solvent, which would require fitting to experimental data, we minimize the risk of overfitting. We further find that the influence from water models and protein force fields on calculated profiles are insignificant up to $q≈15nm^{−1}$. Using a series of simulations that allow increasing flexibility of the proteins, we show that incorporating thermal fluctuations into the calculations significantly improves agreement with experimental data, demonstrating the importance of protein dynamics in the interpretation of WAXS profiles. In addition, free MD simulations up to one microsecond suggest that the calculated profiles are highly sensitive with respect to minor conformational rearrangements of proteins, such as an increased flexibility of a loop or an increase of the radius of gyration by < 1%. The present study suggests that quantitative comparison between MD simulations and experimental WAXS profiles emerges as an accurate tool to validate solution ensembles of biomolecules.

Biophysical Journal

The calculations are available to everyone via the WAXSiS web server.

Jochen Hub
Jochen Hub
Professor of Computational Biophysics