Re: Question about Electrostatics in Molecular Mechanics

 > Dear Netters,
 > Please help settle a small controversy.  For a particular molecular
 > mechanics calculation, I derived partial atomic charges from bond
 > dipole moment measurements made in nonpolar solvent.  I then ran
 > molecular mechanics calculations using an in vacuo dielectric constant
 > of 1.00.  A colleague argues that I must use a dielectric constant
 > appropriate to the nonpolar solvent from which the charges were
 > derived (e.g., 2-3).  It seems to me that the charges already embody
 > the effect of the nonpolar solvent's dielectric constant, and so using
 > the in vacuo value of 1.00 is okay and perhaps preferred.  Stated another
 > way, it seems to me that using these charges AND the dielectric of 2-3
 > would count the effect of the nonpolar solvent twice.
 > Any opinions on this matter are appreciated.
 > Thanks ...
 > Bill Welsh
 > Dept. of Chemistry
 > Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis
 Dear Bill,
 It is still controversial how to choose the dielectric constant in molecular
 mechanics calculation. Some choose 1, some choose larger than 1, and some choose
 distance dependent (e.g. 1/r) parameter.
 The current point charges were calculated under the condition without
 of external electric field. When two charges interact with each other, not only
 effective point charges move accordingly to have the dielectric effect, but also
 eletrons redistribute themselves to have the so-called electronic
 So if you choose a dielectric constant of 1.00, you can model dielectric effect
 ion (nuclei), but you do not account completely for the polarizability of
 That's why many people attempt to use a dielectric constant large than one. It
 suggested 2.0 for proteins and 4.0 for membranes. But since there is no really
 model to include the polarizability of electron, it is still acceptable to use a
 dielectric constant of 1.00. It seems that dynamics of biopolymers is not very
 sensitive to electrostatics in many cases. For example, many simulations used an
 distance cutoff for Coulomb forces, which loses a significant portion of
 electrostatics, but good results were still obtained anyway.
 Dong Xu
 Laboratory of Mathematical Biology
 NCI/Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center
 P.O. Box B, Bldg. 469, #151
 Frederick, MD  21702-1201