Faster simulations with a 5 fs timestep for lipids in the CHARMM forcefield

Karina Olesen, Neha Awasthi, Dennis Skjøth Bruhn, Weria Pezeshkian, Himanshu Khandelia

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The performance of all-atom molecular dynamics simulations is limited by an integration time step of 2 fs, which is needed to resolve the fastest degrees of freedom in the system, namely, the vibration of bonds and angles involving hydrogen atoms. The virtual interaction sites (VIS) method replaces hydrogen atoms by massless virtual interaction sites to eliminate these degrees of freedom while keeping intact nonbonded interactions and the explicit treatment of hydrogen atoms. We have modified the existing VIS algorithm for most lipids in the popular CHARMM36 force field by increasing the hydrogen atom masses at regular intervals in the lipid acyl chains and obtained lipid properties and pore formation free energies in very good agreement with those calculated in simulations without VIS. Our modified VIS scheme enables a 5 fs time step resulting in a significant performance gain for all-atom simulations of membranes. The method has the potential to make longer time and length scales accessible in all-atom simulations of membrane-protein complexes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Volume 14
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)3342–3350
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Algorithms
  • Cholesterol/chemistry
  • Hydrogen/chemistry
  • Lipid Bilayers/chemistry
  • Lipids/chemistry
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Sphingomyelins/chemistry
  • Thermodynamics


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