A stochastic finite element model for the dynamics of globular macromolecules
We describe a novel coarse-grained simulation method for modelling the dynamics of globular macromolecules, such as proteins. The macromolecule is treated as a continuum that is subject to thermal fluctuations. The model includes a non-linear treatment of elasticity and viscosity with thermal noise that is solved using finite element analysis. We have validated the method by demonstrating that the model provides average kinetic and potential energies that are in agreement with the classical equipartition theorem and that the nodal velocities have the correct Gaussian distribution. In addition, we have performed Fourier analysis on the simulation trajectories obtained for a series of linear beams to confirm that the correct average energies are present in the first two Fourier bending modes and that the probability distribution of the amplitudes of the first two Fourier modes match the theoretical results. We demonstrate spatial convergence of the model by showing that the anisotropy of the inertia tensor for a cubic mesh converges as a function of the mesh resolution. We have then used the new modelling method to simulate the thermal fluctuations of a representative protein over 500 ns timescales. Using reasonable parameters for the material properties, we have demonstrated that the overall deformation of the biomolecule is consistent with the results obtained for proteins in general from atomistic molecular dynamics simulations.