Modeling zwitterions in solution: 3-fluoro-γ-aminobutyric acid (3F-GABA)

Jie Cao, Ragnar Bjornsson, Michael Buehl, Walter Thiel, Tanja van Mourik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The conformations and relative stabilities of folded and extended 3-fluoro-γ-aminobutyric acid (3F-GABA) conformers were studied using explicit solvation models. Geometry optimisations in the gas phase with one or two explicit water molecules favour folded and neutral structures containing intramolecular NH⋅⋅⋅O-C hydrogen bonds. With three or five explicit water molecules zwitterionic minima are obtained, with folded structures being preferred over extended conformers. The stability of folded versus extended zwitterionic conformers increases on going from a PCM continuum solvation model to the microsolvated complexes, though extended structures become less disfavoured with the inclusion of more water molecules. Full explicit solvation was studied with a hybrid quantum-mechanical/molecular-mechanical (QM/MM) scheme and molecular dynamics simulations, including more than 6000 TIP3P water molecules. According to free energies obtained from thermodynamic integration at the PM3/MM level and corrected for B3LYP/MM total energies, the fully extended conformer is more stable than folded ones by about −4.5 kJ mol−1. B3LYP-computed 3J(F,H) NMR spin–spin coupling constants, averaged over PM3/MM-MD trajectories, agree best with experiment for this fully extended form, in accordance with the original NMR analysis. The seeming discrepancy between static PCM calculations and experiment noted previously is now resolved. That the inexpensive semiempirical PM3 method performs so well for this archetypical zwitterion is encouraging for further QM/MM studies of biomolecular systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184–195
Number of pages12
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2012


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