, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 209-216

Computational carbohydrate chemistry: what theoretical methods can tell us

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Computational methods have had a long history of application to carbohydrate systems and their development in this regard is discussed. The conformational analysis of carbohydrates differs in several ways from that of other biomolecules. Many glycans appear to exhibit numerous conformations coexisting in solution at room temperature and a conformational analysis of a carbohydrate must address both spatial and temporal properties. When solution nuclear magnetic resonance data are used for comparison, the simulation must give rise to ensemble-averaged properties. In contrast, when comparing to experimental data obtained from crystal structures a simulation of a crystal lattice, rather than of an isolated molecule, is appropriate. Molecular dynamics simulations are well suited for such condensed phase modeling. Interactions between carbohydrates and other biological macromolecules are also amenable to computational approaches. Having obtained a three-dimensional structure of the receptor protein, it is possible to model with accuracy the conformation of the carbohydrate in the complex. An example of the application of free energy perturbation simulations to the prediction of carbohydrate-protein binding energies is presented.