Multigrid solution of the nonlinear Poisson-Boltzmann equation and calculation of titration curves.
Although knowledge of the pKa values and charge states of individual residues is critical to understanding the role of electrostatic effects in protein structure and function, calculating these quantities is challenging because of the sensitivity of these parameters to the position and distribution of charges. Values for many different proteins which agree well with experimental results have been obtained with modified Tanford-Kirkwood theory in which the protein is modeled as a sphere (reviewed in Ref. 1); however, convergence is more difficult to achieve with finite difference methods, in which the protein is mapped onto a grid and derivatives of the potential function are calculated as differences between the values of the function at grid points (reviewed in Ref. 6). Multigrid methods, in which the size of the grid is varied from fine to coarse in several cycles, decrease computational time, increase rates of convergence, and improve agreement with experiment. Both the accuracy and computational advantage of the multigrid approach increase with grid size, because the time required to achieve a solution increases slowly with grid size. We have implemented a multigrid procedure for solving the nonlinear Poisson-Boltzmann equation, and, using lysozyme as a test case, compared calculations for several crystal forms, different refinement procedures, and different charge assignment schemes. The root mean square difference between calculated and experimental pKa values for the crystal structure which yields best agreement with experiment (1LZT) is 1.1 pH units, with the differences in calculated and experimental pK values being less than 0.6 pH units for 16 out of 21 residues. The calculated titration curves of several residues are biphasic.