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Tailoring the Variational Implicit Solvent Method for New Challenges: Biomolecular Recognition and Assembly.

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Predicting solvation free energies and describing the complex water behavior that plays an important role in essentially all biological processes is a major challenge from the computational standpoint. While an atomistic, explicit description of the solvent can turn out to be too expensive in large biomolecular systems, most implicit solvent methods fail to capture "dewetting" effects and heterogeneous hydration by relying on a pre-established (i.e., guessed) solvation interface. Here we focus on the Variational Implicit Solvent Method, an implicit solvent method that adds water "plasticity" back to the picture by formulating the solvation free energy as a functional of all possible solvation interfaces. We survey VISM's applications to the problem of molecular recognition and report some of the most recent efforts to tailor VISM for more challenging scenarios, with the ultimate goal of including thermal fluctuations into the framework. The advances reported herein pave the way to make VISM a uniquely successful approach to characterize complex solvation properties in the recognition and binding of large-scale biomolecular complexes.

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