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The structure of aqueous L-proline amino acid has been the subject of much debate centering on the validity of various proposed models, differing widely in the extent to which local and long-range correlations are present. Here, aqueous proline is investigated by atomistic, replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations, and the results are compared to neutron diffraction and small angle neutron scattering (SANS) data, which have been reported recently (McLain, S.; Soper, A.; Terry, A.; Watts, A. J. Phys. Chem. B 2007, 111, 4568). Comparisons between neutron experiments and simulation are made via the static structure factor S(Q) which is measured and computed from several systems with different H/D isotopic compositions at a concentration of 1:20 molar ratio. Several different empirical water models (TIP3P, TIP4P, and SPC/E) in conjunction with the CHARMM22 force field are investigated. Agreement between experiment and simulation is reasonably good across the entire Q range although there are significant model-dependent variations in some cases. In general, agreement is improved slightly upon application of approximate quantum corrections obtained from gas-phase path integral simulations. Dimers and short oligomeric chains formed by hydrogen bonds (frequently bifurcated) coexist with apolar (hydrophobic) contacts. These emerge as the dominant local motifs in the mixture. Evidence for long-range association is more equivocal: No long-range structures form spontaneously in the MD simulations, and no obvious low-Q signature is seen in the SANS data. Moreover, associations introduced artificially to replicate a long-standing proposed mesoscale structure for proline correlations as an initial condition are annealed out by parallel tempering MD simulations. However, some small residual aggregates do remain, implying a greater degree of long-range order than is apparent in the SANS data.

Original publication




Journal article


J Phys Chem B

Publication Date





8210 - 8222


Computer Simulation, Hydrogen Bonding, Models, Molecular, Neutron Diffraction, Proline, Quantum Theory, Water