Surface tension effect on transmembrane channel stability in a model membrane

Qing Zhu, Mark W. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The effect of surface tension on the lipid bilayer membrane is a question that has drawn considerable research effort. This interest has been driven both by the desire to determine the surface tension effects on the lipid bilayer and from the suggestion that adding finite surface tension to a small membrane system may provide more realistic lipid properties in molecular dynamics simulations. Here, the effect of surface tension on a palmitololelylphosphatidylcholine (POPC) bilayer membrane containing a four-helix transmembrane alamethicin peptide bundle is investigated. Simulations of 10 ns were undertaken for two different ensembles, NPT and NP zγT with a surface tension, γ, of 20 mN m -1 per interface, which is near the pore-forming region. The significance of differences between the tension-free and surface tension simulations was determined using nonparametric statistical analysis on replicate simulations with different initial conditions. The results suggest that, when the membrane is under surface tension, the peptide helical structure is perturbed from that in the tension-free state but that the bundle conformation is more stable than that in the tension-free state, with hydrogen bonding playing an important stabilizing role. Surface tension counteracts the influence of the transmembrane helix bundle on nearby lipid order, making the lipid order more uniform throughout the membrane in the tension state. Conversely, the lipid mobility was less uniform in the tension state, with lipids far from the bundle being significantly more mobile than those near the bundle. One general implication of the results is that surface tension can affect the membrane nonuniformly, in that the properties of lipids near the peptide are different from those further away.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19474-19483
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 20 2005


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