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Proteins are exposed to various mechanical loads that can lead to covalent bond scissions even before macroscopic failure occurs. Knowledge of these molecular breakages is important to understand mechanical properties of the protein. In regular molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, covalent bonds are predefined, and reactions cannot occur. Furthermore, such events rarely take place on MD time scales. Existing approaches that tackle this limitation either rely on computationally expensive quantum calculations (e.g., QM/MM) or complex bond order formalisms in force fields (e.g., ReaxFF). To circumvent these limitations, we present a new reactive kinetic Monte Carlo/molecular dynamics (KIMMDY) scheme. Here, bond rupture rates are calculated based on the interatomic distances in the MD simulation and then serve as an input for a kinetic Monte Carlo step. This easily scalable hybrid approach drastically increases the accessible time scales. Using this new technique, we investigate bond ruptures in a multimillion atom system of tensed collagen, a structural protein found in skin, bones, and tendons. Our findings show a clear concentration of bond scissions near chemical cross-links in collagen. We also examine subsequent dynamic relaxation steps. Our method exhibits only a minor slowdown compared to classical MD and is straightforwardly applicable to other complex (bio)materials under load and related chemistries.


Rennekamp, Benedikt;  Kutzki, Fabian;  Obarska-Kosinska, Agnieszka;  Zapp, Christopher;  Graeter, Frauke

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