How is a water-soluble globular protein able to spontaneously cross a cellular membrane? It is commonly accepted that it undergoes significant structural rearrangements on the lipid-water interface, thus acquiring membrane binding and penetration ability. In this study molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to explore large-scale conformational changes of the globular viscumin A chain in a complex environment – comprising urea and chloroform/methanol (CHCl3/MeOH) mixture. Being well-packed in aqueous solution, viscumin A undergoes global structural rearrangements in both organic media. In urea, the protein is “swelling” and gradually loses its long-distance contacts, thus resembling the “molten globule” state. In CHCl3/MeOH, viscumin A is in effect turned “inside out”. This is accompanied with strengthening of the secondary structure and surface exposure of hydrophobic epitopes originally buried inside the globule. Resulting solvent-adapted models were further subjected to Monte Carlo simulations with an implicit hydrophobic slab membrane. In contrast to only a few point surface contacts in water and two short regions with weak protein-lipid interactions in urea, MD-derived structures in CHCl3/MeOH reveal multiple determinants of membrane interaction. Consequently it is now possible to propose a specific pathway for the structural adaptation of viscumin A with respect to the cell membrane – a probable first step of its translocation into cytoplasmic targets.
Structure, dynamics, and functioning of hydrated lipid bilayers - model cell membranes - are governed by a thin balance of intermolecular interactions between constituents of these systems. Besides the hydrophobic effect, which determines the overall bilayer skeleton, important contribution is made by Hbonds between lipids, water, and ions. This determines crucial phenomena in cell membranes: dynamic clustering, hydration, fine tuning of microscopic physico-chemical properties, which permit fast adaptation of membranes to external agents (e.g., proteins). Characteristics of H-bonds (strength, spatial location, etc.) dramatically depend on local polarity properties of water-lipid environment. Here, we calculated free energies of H-bonded complexes between lipids and water in explicit solvents of different polarity (water, methanol, chloroform) mimicking membrane environment at different depth. The strongest H-bonds were observed in nonpolar environment, although the overall bilayer organization imposes serious limitations on the distribution of various types of H-bonds over hydrophobic/hydrophilic regions (corresponding to dielectric media with low and high permeability). This creates a delicate balance, which determines a unique H-bonding pattern for each particular lipid bilayer. This was confirmed via atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) of several hydrated lipid bilayers. Understanding of the factors regulating H-bonding propensities in such systems is indispensable for rational design of new membranelike materials with predefined properties. One example - an artificial lipid with engineered hydroxyl group - is studied via MD simulations. It is shown that such lipids can induce significant changes of key characteristics of model membranes. This opens new avenues in goal-oriented design of artificial membranes with engineered properties.
Grand Canonical Molecular Dynamics (GCMD) simulations were performed to investigate the intercalation of CO2 and H2O molecules in the interlayers of the smectite clay, Na-hectorite, at temperatures and pressures relevant to petroleum reservoir and geological carbon sequestration conditions and in equilibrium with H2O-saturated CO2. The computed adsorption isotherms indicate that CO2 molecules enter the interlayer space of Na-hectorite only when it is hydrated with approximately three H2O molecules per unit cell. The computed immersion energies show that the bilayer hydrate structure (2WL) contains less CO2 than the monolayer structure (1WL) but that the 2WL hydrate is the most thermodynamically stable state, consistent with experimental results for a similar Na-montmorillonite smectite. Under all T and P conditions examined (323–368 K and 90–150 bar), the CO2 molecules are adsorbed at the midplane of clay interlayers for the 1WL structure and closer to one of the basal surfaces for the 2WL structure. Interlayer CO2 molecules are dynamically less restricted in the 2WL structures. The CO2 molecules are preferentially located near basal surface oxygen atoms and H2O molecules rather than in coordination with Na+ ions. Accounting for the orientation and flexibility of the structural −OH groups of the clay layer has a significant effect on the details of the computed structure and dynamics of H2O and CO2 molecules but does not affect the overall trends with changing basal spacing or the principal structural and dynamical conclusions. Temperature and pressure in the ranges examined have little effect on the principal structural and energetic conclusions, but the rates of dynamical processes increase with increasing temperature, as expected.