In QM/MM calculations, it is essential to handle electrostatic interactions between the QM and MM subsystems accurately and efficiently. To achieve maximal efficiency, it is convenient to adopt a hybrid scheme, where the QM electron density is used explicitly in the evaluation of short-range QM/MM electrostatic interactions, while a multipolar representation for the QM electron density is employed to account for the long-range QM/MM electrostatic interactions. In order to avoid energy discontinuity at the cutoffs, which separate the short- and long-range QM/MM electrostatic interactions, a switching function should be utilized to ensure a smooth potential energy surface. In this study, we benchmarked the accuracy of such hybrid embedding schemes for QM/MM electrostatic interactions using different multipolar representations, switching functions and cutoff distances. For test systems (neutral and anionic oxyluciferin in MM (aqueous and enzyme) environments), the best accuracy was acquired with a combination of QM electrostatic potential (ESP) charges and dipoles and two switching functions (long-range electrostatic corrections (LREC) and Switch) in the treatment of long-range QM/MM electrostatics. It allowed us to apply a 10Å distance cutoff and still obtain QM/MM electrostatics/polarization energies within 0.1 kcal/mol and time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT)/MM vertical excitation energies within 10−3
eV from theoretical reference values.
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