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Capturing Deuteration Effects in a Molecular Mechanics Force Field: Deuterated THF and the THF–Water Miscibility Gap...

by Rupesh Agarwal, Micholas D Smith, Jeremy C Smith
Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Publication Date
Page Numbers
2529 to 2540

Deuteration is a common chemical modification used in conjunction with experiments such as neutron scattering, NMR, and Fourier-transform infrared for the study of molecular systems. Under the Born–Oppenheimer (BO) approximation, while the underlying potential energy surface remains unchanged by isotopic substitutions, isotopic substitution still alters intramolecular vibrations, which in turn may alter intermolecular interactions. Molecular mechanics (MM) force fields used in classical molecular dynamics simulations are assumed to represent local approximations of the BO potential energy surfaces, and hence, MD simulations using simple isotopic mass substitutions should capture BO-compatible isotope effects. However, standard MM force-field parameterizations do not directly fit to the local harmonic quantum mechanical (QM) Hessian that describes the BO surface, but rather to QM normal-modes and/or mass-dependent internal-coordinate derived distortion energies. Here, using tetrahydrofuran (THF)–water mixtures as our model system, we show that not only does a simple mass-substitution approach fail to capture an experimentally characterized deuteration effect (the loss of the closed-loop miscibility gap associated with the complete deuteration of THF) but also it is necessary to generate new MM force-field parameters that correctly describe isotopic dependent vibrations to capture the experimental deuteration effect. We show that the origin of this failure is a result of using mass-dependent features to fit the THF MM force field, which unintentionally biases the bonded terms of the force field to represent only the isotopologue used during the original force-field parameterization. In addition, we make use of our isotopologue-corrected force field for D8THF to examine the molecular origins of the isotope-dependent loss of the THF–water miscibility gap.