Background Research has shown that Poly-ADP-ribose polymerases 1 (PARP-1) is a potential therapeutic target in the clinical treatment of breast cancer. An increasing number of studies have focused on the development of highly selective inhibitors that target PARP-1 over PARP-2, its closest isoform, to mitigate potential side effects. However, due to the highly conserved and similar binding sites of PARP-1 and PARP-2, there is a huge challenge for the discovery and design of PARP-1 inhibitors. Recently, it was reported that a potent PARP-1 inhibitor named NMS-P118 exhibited greater selectivity to PARP-1 over PARP-2 compared with a previously reported drug (Niraparib). However, the mechanisms underlying the effect of this inhibitor remains unclear. Methods In the present study, classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and accelerated molecular dynamics (aMD) simulations combined with structural and energetic analysis were used to investigate the structural dynamics and selective mechanisms of PARP-1 and PARP-2 that are bound to NMS-P118 and Niraparib with distinct selectivity. Results The results from classical MD simulations indicated that the selectivity of inhibitors may be controlled by electrostatic interactions, which were mainly due to the residues of Gln-322, Ser-328, Glu-335, and Tyr-455 in helix [alpha]F. The energetic differences were corroborated by the results from aMD simulations. Conclusion This study provides new insights about how inhibitors specifically bind to PARP-1 over PARP-2, which may help facilitate the design of highly selective PARP-1 inhibitors in the future.