Toward the Quantum Chemical Calculation of NMR Chemical Shifts of Proteins. 2. Level of Theory, Basis Set, and Solvents Model Dependence

It has been demonstrated that the fragmentation scheme of our adjustable density matrix assembler (ADMA) approach for the quantum chemical calculations of very large systems is well-suited to calculate NMR chemical shifts of proteins [Frank et al. <i>Proteins</i> <b>2011</b>, <i>79</i>, 2189–2202]. The systematic investigation performed here on the influences of the level of theory, basis set size, inclusion or exclusion of an implicit solvent model, and the use of partial charges to describe additional parts of the macromolecule on the accuracy of NMR chemical shifts demonstrates that using a valence triple-ζ basis set leads to large improvement compared to the results given in the previous publication. Additionally, moving from the B3LYP to the mPW1PW91 density functional and including partial charges and implicit solvents gave the best results with mean absolute errors of 0.44 ppm for hydrogen atoms excluding H<sup>N</sup> atoms and between 1.53 and 3.44 ppm for carbon atoms depending on the size and also on the accuracy of the protein structure. Polar hydrogen and nitrogen atoms are more difficult to predict. For the first, explicit hydrogen bonds to the solvents need to be included and, for the latter, going beyond DFT to post-Hartree–Fock methods like MP2 is probably required. Even if empirical methods like SHIFTX+ show similar performance, our calculations give for the first time very reliable chemical shifts that can also be used for complexes of proteins with small-molecule ligands or DNA/RNA. Therefore, taking advantage of its ab initio nature, our approach opens new fields of application that would otherwise be largely inaccessible due to insufficient availability of data for empirical parametrization.