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Title: Improved Coarse-Grained Modeling of Cholesterol-Containing Lipid Bilayers

In mammalian cells cholesterol is essential for membrane function, but in excess can be cytototoxic. The cellular response to acute cholesterol loading involves biophysical-based mechanisms that regulate cholesterol levels, through modulation of the “activity” or accessibility of cholesterol to extra-membrane acceptors. Experiments and united atom (UA) simulations show that at high concentrations of cholesterol, lipid bilayers thin significantly and cholesterol availability to external acceptors increases substantially. Such cholesterol activation is critical to its trafficking within cells. Here we aim to reduce the computational cost to enable simulation of large and complex systems involved in cholesterol regulation, such as those including oxysterols and cholesterol-sensing proteins. To accomplish this, we have modified the published MARTINI coarse-grained force field to improve its predictions of cholesterol-induced changes in both macroscopic and microscopic properties of membranes. Most notably, MARTINI fails to capture both the (macroscopic) area condensation and membrane thickening seen at less than 30% cholesterol and the thinning seen above 40% cholesterol. The thinning at high concentration is critical to cholesterol activation. Microscopic properties of interest include cholesterol-cholesterol radial distribution functions (RDFs), tilt angle, and accessible surface area. First, we develop an “angle-corrected” model wherein we modify the coarse-grained bond angle potentials based onmore » atomistic simulations. This modification significantly improves prediction of macroscopic properties, most notably the thickening/thinning behavior, and also slightly improves microscopic property prediction relative to MARTINI. Second, we add to the angle correction a “volume correction” by also adjusting phospholipid bond lengths to achieve a more accurate volume per molecule. The angle + volume correction substantially further improves the quantitative agreement of the macroscopic properties (area per molecule and thickness) with united atom simulations. However, this improvement also reduces the accuracy of microscopic predictions like radial distribution functions and cholesterol tilt below that of either MARTINI or the angle-corrected model. Thus, while both of our forcefield corrections improve MARTINI, the combined angle and volume correction should be used for problems involving sterol effects on the overall structure of the membrane, while our angle-corrected model should be used in cases where the properties of individual lipid and sterol models are critically important.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, 10(5):2137-2150
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
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Country of Publication:
United States
biomembrane; coarse graining; molecular dynamics