Three unrestrained stochastic dynamics simulations have been carried out on the RNA hairpin GGAC[UUCG] GUCC. Using the AMBER94 force field (Cornell et al., 1995. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 117:5179-5197) in MacroModel 5.5 (Mohamadi et al., 1990. J. Comp. Chem. 11:440-467) and either the GB/SA continuum solvation model (Still et al., 1990, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 112:6127-6129) or a linear distance-dependent dielectric (1/R) treatment. The linear distance- dependent treatment results in severe distortion of the nucleic acid structure, restriction of all hydroxyl dihedrals, and collapse of the counterion atmosphere over the course of a 5-ns simulation. An additional vacuum simulation without counterions shows somewhat improved behavior. In contrast, the two GB/SA simulations (1.149 and 3.060 ns in length) give average structures within 1.2 Å of the initial NMR structure and in excellent agreement with results of an earlier explicit solvent simulation (Miller and Kollman, 1997. J. Mol. Biol. 270:436-450). In a 3-ns GB/SA simulation starting with the incorrect UUCG tetraloop structure (Cheong et al., 1990. Nature. 346:660-682), this loop conformation converts to the correct loop geometry (Allain and Varani, 1995. J. Mol. Biol. 250:333-353), suggesting enhanced sampling relative to the previous explicit solvent simulation. Thermodynamic effects of 2'-deoxyribose substitutions of loop nucleotides were experimentally determined and are found to correlate with the fraction of time the ribose 2'-OH is hydrogen bonded and the distribution of the hydroxyl dihedral is observed in the GB/SA simulations. The GB/SA simulations thus appear to faithfully represent structural features of the RNA without the computational expense of explicit solvent.