A GPU-Accelerated Parameter Interpolation Thermodynamic Integration Free Energy Method
There has been a resurgence of interest in free energy methods motivated by the performance enhancements offered by molecular dynamics (MD) software written for specialized hardware, such as graphics processing units (GPUs). In this work, we exploit the properties of a parameter-interpolated thermodynamic integration (PI-TI) method to connect states by their molecular mechanical (MM) parameter values. This pathway is shown to be better behaved for Mg2+ → Ca2+ transformations than traditional linear alchemical pathways (with and without soft-core potentials). The PI-TI method has the practical advantage that no modification of the MD code is required to propagate the dynamics, and unlike with linear alchemical mixing, only one electrostatic evaluation is needed (e.g., single call to particle-mesh Ewald) leading to better performance. In the case of AMBER, this enables all the performance benefits of GPU-acceleration to be realized, in addition to unlocking the full spectrum of features available within the MD software, such as Hamiltonian replica exchange (HREM). The TI derivative evaluation can be accomplished efficiently in a post-processing step by reanalyzing the statistically independent trajectory frames in parallel for high throughput. We also show how one can evaluate the particle mesh Ewald contribution to the TI derivative evaluation without needing to perform two reciprocal space calculations. We apply the PI-TI method with HREM on GPUs in AMBER to predict pKa values in double stranded RNA molecules and make comparison with experiments. Convergence to under 0.25 units for these systems required 100 ns or more of sampling per window and coupling of windows with HREM. We find that MM charges derived from ab initio QM/MM fragment calculations improve the agreement between calculation and experimental results.