The ELBA Force Field for Coarse-Grain Modeling of Lipid Membranes

M Orsi and JW Essex, PLOS ONE, 6, e28637 (2011).

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028637

A new coarse-grain model for molecular dynamics simulation of lipid membranes is presented. Following a simple and conventional approach, lipid molecules are modeled by spherical sites, each representing a group of several atoms. In contrast to common coarse-grain methods, two original (interdependent) features are here adopted. First, the main electrostatics are modeled explicitly by charges and dipoles, which interact realistically through a relative dielectric constant of unity (is an element of(r) = 1). Second, water molecules are represented individually through a new parametrization of the simple Stockmayer potential for polar fluids; each water molecule is therefore described by a single spherical site embedded with a point dipole. The force field is shown to accurately reproduce the main physical properties of single- species phospholipid bilayers comprising dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) and dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE) in the liquid crystal phase, as well as distearoylphosphatidylcholine (DSPC) in the liquid crystal and gel phases. Insights are presented into fundamental properties and phenomena that can be difficult or impossible to study with alternative computational or experimental methods. For example, we investigate the internal pressure distribution, dipole potential, lipid diffusion, and spontaneous self-assembly. Simulations lasting up to 1.5 microseconds were conducted for systems of different sizes (128, 512 and 1058 lipids); this also allowed us to identify size-dependent artifacts that are expected to affect membrane simulations in general. Future extensions and applications are discussed, particularly in relation to the methodology's inherent multiscale capabilities.

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