We consider whether the continuum model of hydration optimized to reproduce vacuum-to-water transfer free energies simultaneously describes the hydration free energy contributions to conformational equilibria of the same solutes in water. To this end, transfer and conformational free energies of idealized hydrophobic and amphiphilic solutes in water are calculated from explicit water simulations and compared to continuum model predictions. As benchmark hydrophobic solutes, we examine the hydration of linear alkanes from methane through hexane. Amphiphilic solutes were created by adding a charge of ±1e to a terminal methyl group of butane. We find that phenomenological continuum parameters fit to transfer free energies are significantly different from those fit to conformational free energies of our model solutes. This difference is attributed to continuum model parameters that depend on solute conformation in water, and leads to effective values for the free energy/surface area coefficient and Born radii that best describe conformational equilibrium. In light of these results, we believe that continuum models of hydration optimized to fit transfer free energies do not accurately capture the balance between hydrophobic and electrostatic contributions that determines the solute conformational state in aqueous solution.
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