We propose a method to evaluate binding free energy differences among distinct protein-protein complex model structures through all-atom molecular dynamics simulations in explicit water using the solution theory in the energy representation. Complex model structures are generated from a pair of monomeric structures using the rigid-body docking program ZDOCK. After structure refinement by side chain optimization and all-atom molecular dynamics simulations in explicit water, complex models are evaluated based on the sum of their conformational and solvation free energies, the latter calculated from the energy distribution functions obtained from relatively short molecular dynamics simulations of the complex in water and of pure water based on the solution theory in the energy representation. We examined protein-protein complex model structures of two protein-protein complex systems, bovine trypsin/CMTI-1 squash inhibitor (PDB ID: 1PPE) and RNase SA/barstar (PDB ID: 1AY7), for which both complex and monomer structures were determined experimentally. For each system, we calculated the energies for the crystal complex structure and twelve generated model structures including the model most similar to the crystal structure and very different from it. In both systems, the sum of the conformational and solvation free energies tended to be lower for the structure similar to the crystal. We concluded that our energy calculation method is useful for selecting low energy complex models similar to the crystal structure from among a set of generated models.

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