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Conventional modeling techniques to model macromolecular solvation and its effect on binding in the framework of Poisson-Boltzmann based implicit solvent models make use of a geometrically defined surface to depict the separation of macromolecular interior (low dielectric constant) from the solvent phase (high dielectric constant). Though this simplification saves time and computational resources without significantly compromising the accuracy of free energy calculations, it bypasses some of the key physio-chemical properties of the solute-solvent interface, e.g., the altered flexibility of water molecules and that of side chains at the interface, which results in dielectric properties different from both bulk water and macromolecular interior, respectively. Here we present a Gaussian-based smooth dielectric model, an inhomogeneous dielectric distribution model that mimics the effect of macromolecular flexibility and captures the altered properties of surface bound water molecules. Thus, the model delivers a smooth transition of dielectric properties from the macromolecular interior to the solvent phase, eliminating any unphysical surface separating the two phases. Using various examples of macromolecular binding, we demonstrate its utility and illustrate the comparison with the conventional 2-dielectric model. We also showcase some additional abilities of this model, viz. to account for the effect of electrolytes in the solution and to render the distribution profile of water across a lipid membrane.
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