Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Peptide−Surface Interactions
Proteins, which are bioactive molecules, adsorb on implants placed in the body through complex and poorly understood mechanisms and directly influence biocompatibility. Molecular dynamics modeling using empirical force fields provides one of the most direct methods of theoretically analyzing the behavior of complex molecular systems and is well-suited for the simulation of protein adsorption behavior. To accurately simulate protein adsorption behavior, a force field must correctly represent the thermodynamic driving forces that govern peptide residue?surface interactions. However, since existing force fields were developed without specific consideration of protein?surface interactions, they may not accurately represent this type of molecular behavior. To address this concern, we developed a host?guest peptide adsorption model in the form of a G4-X-G4 peptide (G is glycine, X is a variable residue) to enable determination of the contributions to adsorption free energy of different X residues when adsorbed to functionalized Au?alkanethiol self-assembled monolayers (SAMs). We have previously reported experimental results using surface plasmon resonance (SPR) spectroscopy to measure the free energy of peptide adsorption for this peptide model with X = G and K (lysine) on OH and COOH functionalized SAMs. The objectives of the present research were the development and assessment of methods to calculate adsorption free energy using molecular dynamics simulations with the GROMACS force field for these same peptide adsorption systems, with an oligoethylene oxide (OEG) functionalized SAM surface also being considered. By comparing simulation results to the experimental results, the accuracy of the selected force field to represent the behavior of these molecular systems can be evaluated. From our simulations, the G4-G-G4 and G4-K-G4 peptides showed minimal to no adsorption to the OH SAM surfaces and the G4-K-G4 showed strong adsorption to the COOH SAM surface, which is in agreement with our SPR experiments. Contrary to our experimental results, however, the simulations predicted a relatively strong adsorption of G4-G-G4 peptide to the COOH SAM surface. In addition, both peptides were unexpectedly predicted to adsorb to the OEG surface. These findings demonstrate the need for GROMACS force field parameters to be rebalanced for the simulation of peptide adsorption behavior on SAM surfaces. The developed methods provide a direct means of assessing, modifying, and validating force field performance for the simulation of peptide and protein adsorption to surfaces, without which little confidence can be placed in the simulation results that are generated with these types of systems.