The impact of resolution upon entropy and information in coarse-grained models

Thomas T. Foley, M. Scott Shell, W. G. Noid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


By eliminating unnecessary degrees of freedom, coarse-grained (CG) models tremendously facilitate numerical calculations and theoretical analyses of complex phenomena. However, their success critically depends upon the representation of the system and the effective potential that governs the CG degrees of freedom. This work investigates the relationship between the CG representation and the many-body potential of mean force (PMF), W, which is the appropriate effective potential for a CG model that exactly preserves the structural and thermodynamic properties of a given high resolution model. In particular, we investigate the entropic component of the PMF and its dependence upon the CG resolution. This entropic component, SW, is a configuration-dependent relative entropy that determines the temperature dependence of W. As a direct consequence of eliminating high resolution details from the CG model, the coarsening process transfers configurational entropy and information from the configuration space into SW. In order to further investigate these general results, we consider the popular Gaussian Network Model (GNM) for protein conformational fluctuations. We analytically derive the exact PMF for the GNM as a function of the CG representation. In the case of the GNM, -TSW is a positive, configuration-independent term that depends upon the temperature, the complexity of the protein interaction network, and the details of the CG representation. This entropic term demonstrates similar behavior for seven model proteins and also suggests, in each case, that certain resolutions provide a more efficient description of protein fluctuations. These results may provide general insight into the role of resolution for determining the information content, thermodynamic properties, and transferability of CG models. Ultimately, they may lead to a rigorous and systematic framework for optimizing the representation of CG models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number243104
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 28 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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