Author(s): Bennett WF, Sapay N, Tieleman DP
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Abstract Cellular membranes separate distinct aqueous compartments, but can be breached by transient hydrophilic pores. A large energetic cost prevents pore formation, which is largely dependent on the composition and structure of the lipid bilayer. The softness of bilayers and the disordered structure of pores make their characterization difficult. We use molecular-dynamics simulations with atomistic detail to study the thermodynamics, kinetics, and mechanism of pore formation and closure in DLPC, DMPC, and DPPC bilayers, with pore formation free energies of 17, 45, and 78 kJ/mol, respectively. By using atomistic computer simulations, we are able to determine not only the free energy for pore formation, but also the enthalpy and entropy, which yields what is believed to be significant new insights in the molecular driving forces behind membrane defects. The free energy cost for pore formation is due to a large unfavorable entropic contribution and a favorable change in enthalpy. Changes in hydrogen bonding patterns occur, with increased lipid-water interactions, and fewer water-water hydrogen bonds, but the total number of overall hydrogen bonds is constant. Equilibrium pore formation is directly observed in the thin DLPC lipid bilayer. Multiple long timescale simulations of pore closure are used to predict pore lifetimes. Our results are important for biological applications, including the activity of antimicrobial peptides and a better understanding of membrane protein folding, and improve our understanding of the fundamental physicochemical nature of membranes. Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Biophys J
and referenced in Current Synthetic and Systems Biology