(Figure Presented) Application of combined quantum and molecular mechanical (QM/ MM) methods focuses on predicting activation barriers and the structures of stationary points for organic and enzymatic reactions. Characterization of the factors that stabilize transition structures in solution and in enzyme active sites provides a basis for design and optimization of catalysts. Continued technological advances allowed for expansion from prototypical cases to mechanistic studies featuring detailed enzyme and condensed-phase environments with full integration of the QM calculations and configurational sampling. This required improved algorithms featuring fast QM methods, advances in computing changes in free energies including free-energy perturbation (FEP) calculations, and enhanced configurational sampling. In particular, the present Account highlights development of the PDDG/PM3 semi-empirical QM method, computation of multi-dimensional potentials of mean force (PMF), incorporation of on-the-fly QM in Monte Carlo (MC) simulations, and a polynomial quadrature method for efficient modeling of proton-transfer reactions. The utility of this QM/MM/MC/FEP methodology is illustrated for a variety of organic reactions including substitution, decarboxylation, elimination, and pericyclic reactions. A comparison to experimental kinetic results on medium effects has verified the accuracy of the QM/MM approach in the full range of solvents from hydrocarbons to water to ionic liquids. Corresponding results from ab initio and density functional theory (DFT) methods with continuum-based treatments of solvation reveal deficiencies, particularly for protic solvents. Also summarized in this Account are three specific QM/MM applications to biomolecular systems: (1) a recent study that clarified the mechanism for the reaction of 2-pyrone derivatives catalyzed by macrophomate synthase as a tandem Michael-aldol sequence rather than a Diels-Alder reaction, (2) elucidation of the mechanism of action of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an unusual Ser-Ser-Lys proteolytic enzyme, and (3) the construction of enzymes for Kemp elimination of 5-nitrobenzisoxazole that highlights the utility of QM/MM in the design of artificial enzymes.
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