All-atom polarizable force field for DNA based on the classical drude oscillator model

Alexey Savelyev, Alexander D. MacKerell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Presented is a first generation atomistic force field (FF) for DNA in which electronic polarization is modeled based on the classical Drude oscillator formalism. The DNA model is based on parameters for small molecules representative of nucleic acids, including alkanes, ethers, dimethylphosphate, and the nucleic acid bases and empirical adjustment of key dihedral parameters associated with the phosphodiester backbone, glycosidic linkages, and sugar moiety of DNA. Our optimization strategy is based on achieving a compromise between satisfying the properties of the underlying model compounds in the gas phase targeting quantum mechanical (QM) data and reproducing a number of experimental properties of DNA duplexes in the condensed phase. The resulting Drude FF yields stable DNA duplexes on the 100-ns time scale and satisfactorily reproduce (1) the equilibrium between A and B forms of DNA and (2) transitions between the BI and BII substates of B form DNA. Consistency with the gas phase QM data for the model compounds is significantly better for the Drude model as compared to the CHARMM36 additive FF, which is suggested to be due to the improved response of the model to changes in the environment associated with the explicit inclusion of polarizability. Analysis of dipole moments associated with the nucleic acid bases shows the Drude model to have significantly larger values than those present in CHARMM36, with the dipoles of individual bases undergoing significant variations during the MD simulations. Additionally, the dipole moment of water was observed to be perturbed in the grooves of DNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1219-1239
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Computational Chemistry
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jun 15 2014


  • deoxyribonucleic acid
  • electronic polarizability
  • empirical force field
  • molecular mechanics
  • oligonucleotide
  • potential energy function


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