Protein conformational dynamics, despite its significant anharmonicity, has been widely explored by normal mode analysis (NMA) based on atomic or coarse-grained potential functions. To account for the anharmonic aspects of protein dynamics, this study proposes, and has performed, an anharmonic NMA (ANMA) based on the Cα-only elastic network models, which assume elastic interactions between pairs of residues whose Cα atoms or heavy atoms are within a cutoff distance. The key step of ANMA is to sample an anharmonic potential function along the directions of eigenvectors of the lowest normal modes to determine the mean-squared fluctuations along these directions. ANMA was evaluated based on the modeling of anisotropic displacement parameters (ADPs) from a list of 83 high-resolution protein crystal structures. Significant improvement was found in the modeling of ADPs by ANMA compared with standard NMA. Further improvement in the modeling of ADPs is attained if the interactions between a protein and its crystalline environment are taken into account. In addition, this study has determined the optimal cutoff distances for ADP modeling based on elastic network models, and these agree well with the peaks of the statistical distributions of distances between Cα atoms or heavy atoms derived from a large set of protein crystal structures
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