Probing microscopic material properties inside simulated membranes through spatially resolved three-dimensional local pressure fields and surface tensions.
ABSTRACT: Cellular lipid membranes are spatially inhomogeneous soft materials. Materials properties such as pressure and surface tension thus show important microscopic-scale variation that is critical to many biological functions. We present a means to calculate pressure and surface tension in a 3D-resolved manner within molecular-dynamics simulations and show how such measurements can yield important insight. We also present the first corrections to local virial and pressure fields to account for the constraints typically used in lipid simulations that otherwise cause problems in highly oriented systems such as bilayers. Based on simulations of an asymmetric bacterial ion channel in a POPC bilayer, we demonstrate how 3D-resolved pressure can probe for both short-range and long-range effects from the protein on the membrane environment. We also show how surface tension is a sensitive metric for inter-leaflet equilibrium and can be used to detect even subtle imbalances between bilayer leaflets in a membrane-protein simulation. Since surface tension is known to modulate the function of many proteins, this effect is an important consideration for predictions of ion channel function. We outline a strategy by which our local pressure measurements, which we make available within a version of the GROMACS simulation package, may be used to design optimally equilibrated membrane-protein simulations.
Project description:Mechanosensitive channels act as molecular transducers of mechanical force exerted on the membrane of living cells by opening in response to membrane bilayer deformations occurring in physiological processes such as touch, hearing, blood pressure regulation, and osmoregulation. Here, we determine the likely structure of the open state of the mechanosensitive channel of large conductance using a combination of patch clamp, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) spectroscopy, data from previous electron paramagnetic resonance experiments, and molecular and Brownian dynamics simulations. We show that structural rearrangements of the protein can be measured in similar conditions as patch clamp recordings while controlling the state of the pore in its natural lipid environment by modifying the lateral pressure distribution via the lipid bilayer. Transition to the open state is less dramatic than previously proposed, while the N terminus remains anchored at the surface of the membrane where it can either guide the tilt of or directly translate membrane tension to the conformation of the pore-lining helix. Combining FRET data obtained in physiological conditions with simulations is likely to be of great value for studying conformational changes in a range of multimeric membrane proteins.
Project description:Mechanosensitive channels are a class of ubiquitous membrane proteins gated by mechanical strain in the cellular membrane. MscS, the mechanosensitive channel of small conductance, is found in the inner membrane of Escherichia coli and its crystallographic structure in an open form has been recently solved. By means of molecular dynamics simulations we studied the stability of the channel conformation suggested by crystallography in a fully solvated lipid (POPC) bilayer, the combined system encompassing 224,340 atoms. When restraining the backbone of the protein, the channel remained in the open form and the simulation revealed intermittent permeation of water molecules through the channel. Abolishing the restraints under constant pressure conditions led to spontaneous closure of the transmembrane channel, whereas abolishing the restraints when surface tension (20 dyn/cm) was applied led to channel widening. The large balloon-shaped cytoplasmic domain of MscS exhibited spontaneous diffusion of ions through its side openings. Interaction between the transmembrane domain and the cytoplasmic domain of MscS was observed and involved formation of salt bridges between residues Asp62 and Arg128; this interaction may be essential for the gating of MscS. K+ and Cl- ions showed distinctively different distributions in and around the channel.
Project description:Difficulties in estimating the correct number of lipids in each leaflet of complex bilayer membrane simulation systems make it inevitable to introduce a mismatch in lipid packing (i.e., area per lipid) and thus alter the lateral pressure of each leaflet. To investigate potential impacts of such mismatch on simulation results, we performed molecular dynamics simulations of saturated and monounsaturated lipid bilayers with and without gramicidin A or WALP23 at various mismatches by adjusting the number of lipids in the lower leaflet from no mismatch to a 25% reduction compared to that in the upper leaflet. All simulations were stable under the constant pressure barostat, but the mismatch induces asymmetric lipid packing between the leaflets, so that the upper leaflet becomes more ordered, and the lower leaflet becomes less ordered. The mismatch impacts on various bilayer properties are mild up to 5-10% mismatch, and bilayers with fully saturated chains appear to be more prone to these impacts than those with unsaturated tails. The nonvanishing leaflet surface tensions and the free energy derivatives with respect to the bilayer curvature indicate that the bilayer would be energetically unstable in the presence of mismatch. We propose a quantitative criterion for allowable mismatch based on the energetics derived from a continuum elastic model, which grows as a square root of the number of the lipids in the system. On the basis of this criterion, we infer that the area per lipid mismatch up to 5% would be tolerable in various membrane simulations of reasonable all-atom system sizes (40-160 lipids per leaflet).
Project description:This paper demonstrates a method for calculating the tension of a system with a curved interface from a molecular dynamics simulation. To do so, the pressure of a subset of the system is determined by applying a local (virtual) mechanical deformation, fitting the response to that of a bulk fluid, and then using the Young-Laplace equation to infer the tension of the interface. The accuracy of the method is tested by calculating the local pressure of a series of water simulations at various external pressures. The tension of a simulated curved octane-water interface is computed with the method and compares well with the planar tension (≈ 46.7 dyn/cm). Finally, an ambiguity is resolved between the Harasima and Irving-Kirkwood methods of calculating the local pressure as a means for computing the tension.
Project description:There has been exponential growth in the number of membrane protein structures determined. Nevertheless, these structures are usually resolved in the absence of their lipid environment. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CGMD) simulations enable insertion of membrane proteins into explicit models of lipid bilayers. We have automated the CGMD methodology, enabling membrane protein structures to be identified upon their release into the PDB and embedded into a membrane. The simulations are analyzed for protein-lipid interactions, identifying lipid binding sites, and revealing local bilayer deformations plus molecular access pathways within the membrane. The coarse-grained models of membrane protein/bilayer complexes are transformed to atomistic resolution for further analysis and simulation. Using this automated simulation pipeline, we have analyzed a number of recently determined membrane protein structures to predict their locations within a membrane, their lipid/protein interactions, and the functional implications of an enhanced understanding of the local membrane environment of each protein.
Project description:Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) act as host defenses against microbial pathogens. Here we investigate the interactions of SVS-1 (KVKVKVKVdPlPTKVKVKVK), an engineered AMP and anti-cancer ?-hairpin peptide, with lipid bilayers using spectroscopic studies and atomistic molecular dynamics simulations. In agreement with literature reports, simulation and experiment show preferential binding of SVS-1 peptides to anionic over neutral bilayers. Fluorescence and circular dichroism studies of a Trp-substituted SVS-1 analogue indicate, however, that it will bind to a zwitterionic DPPC bilayer under high-curvature conditions and folds into a hairpin. In bilayers formed from a 1:1 mixture of DPPC and anionic DPPG lipids, curvature and lipid fluidity are also observed to promote deeper insertion of the fluorescent peptide. Simulations using the CHARMM C36m force field offer complementary insight into timescales and mechanisms of folding and insertion. SVS-1 simulated at an anionic mixed POPC/POPG bilayer folded into a hairpin over a microsecond, the final stage in folding coinciding with the establishment of contact between the peptide's valine sidechains and the lipid tails through a "flip and dip" mechanism. Partial, transient folding and superficial bilayer contact are seen in simulation of the peptide at a zwitterionic POPC bilayer. Only when external surface tension is applied does the peptide establish lasting contact with the POPC bilayer. Our findings reveal the influence of disruption to lipid headgroup packing (via curvature or surface tension) on the pathway of binding and insertion, highlighting the collaborative effort of electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions on interaction of SVS-1 with lipid bilayers.
Project description:The dipole potential of lipid bilayer membrane controls the difference in permeability of the membrane to oppositely charged ions. We have combined molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and experimental studies to determine changes in electric field and electrostatic potential of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) lipid bilayer in response to applied membrane tension. MD simulations based on CHARMM36 force field showed that electrostatic potential of DOPC bilayer decreases by ~45mV in the physiologically relevant range of membrane tension values (0 to 15dyn/cm). The electrostatic field exhibits a peak (~0.8×10(9)V/m) near the water/lipid interface which shifts by 0.9Å towards the bilayer center at 15dyn/cm. Maximum membrane tension of 15dyn/cm caused 6.4% increase in area per lipid, 4.7% decrease in bilayer thickness and 1.4% increase in the volume of the bilayer. Dipole-potential sensitive fluorescent probes were used to detect membrane tension induced changes in DOPC vesicles exposed to osmotic stress. Experiments confirmed that dipole potential of DOPC bilayer decreases at higher membrane tensions. These results are suggestive of a potentially new mechanosensing mechanism by which mechanically induced structural changes in the lipid bilayer membrane could modulate the function of membrane proteins by altering electrostatic interactions and energetics of protein conformational states.
Project description:The fusion of lipid bilayers is studied with dissipative particle dynamics simulations. First, to achieve control over membrane properties, the effects of individual simulation parameters are studied and optimized. Then, a large number of fusion events for a vesicle and a planar bilayer are simulated using the optimized parameter set. In the observed fusion pathway, configurations of individual lipids play an important role. Fusion starts with individual lipids assuming a splayed tail configuration with one tail inserted in each membrane. To determine the corresponding energy barrier, we measure the average work for interbilayer flips of a lipid tail, i.e., the average work to displace one lipid tail from one bilayer to the other. This energy barrier is found to depend strongly on a certain dissipative particle dynamics parameter, and, thus, can be adjusted in the simulations. Overall, three subprocesses have been identified in the fusion pathway. Their energy barriers are estimated to lie in the range 8-15 k(B)T. The fusion probability is found to possess a maximum at intermediate tension values. As one decreases the tension, the fusion probability seems to vanish before the tensionless membrane state is attained. This would imply that the tension has to exceed a certain threshold value to induce fusion.
Project description:Atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of druglike molecules embedded in lipid bilayers are of considerable interest as models for drug penetration and positioning in biological membranes. Here we analyze partitioning of coumarin in dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) bilayer, based on both multiple, unbiased 3 ?s MD simulations (total length) and free energy profiles along the bilayer normal calculated by biased MD simulations (?7 ?s in total). The convergences in time of free energy profiles calculated by both umbrella sampling and z-constraint techniques are thoroughly analyzed. Two sets of starting structures are also considered, one from unbiased MD simulation and the other from "pulling" coumarin along the bilayer normal. The structures obtained by pulling simulation contain water defects on the lipid bilayer surface, while those acquired from unbiased simulation have no membrane defects. The free energy profiles converge more rapidly when starting frames from unbiased simulations are used. In addition, z-constraint simulation leads to more rapid convergence than umbrella sampling, due to quicker relaxation of membrane defects. Furthermore, we show that the choice of RESP, PRODRG, or Mulliken charges considerably affects the resulting free energy profile of our model drug along the bilayer normal. We recommend using z-constraint biased MD simulations based on starting geometries acquired from unbiased MD simulations for efficient calculation of convergent free energy profiles of druglike molecules along bilayer normals. The calculation of free energy profile should start with an unbiased simulation, though the polar molecules might need a slow pulling afterward. Results obtained with the recommended simulation protocol agree well with available experimental data for two coumarin derivatives.
Project description:We present an implicit solvent coarse-grained (CG) model for quantitative simulations of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) bilayers. The absence of explicit solvent enables membrane simulations on large length and time scales at moderate computational expense. Despite improved computational efficiency, the model preserves chemical specificity and quantitative accuracy. The bonded and nonbonded interactions together with the effective cohesion mimicking the hydrophobic effect were systematically tuned by matching structural and mechanical properties from experiments and all-atom bilayer simulations, such as saturated area per lipid, radial distribution functions, density and pressure profiles across the bilayer, P(2) order, etc. The CG lipid model is shown to self-assemble into a bilayer starting from a random dispersion. Its line tension and elastic properties, such as bending and stretching modulus, are semiquantitatively consistent with experiments. The effects of (i) reduced molecular friction and (ii) more efficient integration combine to an overall speed-up of 3-4 orders of magnitude compared to all-atom bilayer simulations. Our CG lipid model is especially useful for studies of large-scale phenomena in membranes that nevertheless require a fair description of chemical specificity, e.g., membrane patches interacting with movable and transformable membrane proteins and peptides.