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Biophys J. 2006 Nov 15;91(10):3617-29. Epub 2006 Sep 1.

Diffraction-based density restraints for membrane and membrane-peptide molecular dynamics simulations.

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Department of Chemistry, and Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.


We have recently shown that current molecular dynamics (MD) atomic force fields are not yet able to produce lipid bilayer structures that agree with experimentally-determined structures within experimental errors. Because of the many advantages offered by experimentally validated simulations, we have developed a novel restraint method for membrane MD simulations that uses experimental diffraction data. The restraints, introduced into the MD force field, act upon specified groups of atoms to restrain their mean positions and widths to values determined experimentally. The method was first tested using a simple liquid argon system, and then applied to a neat dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) bilayer at 66% relative humidity and to the same bilayer containing the peptide melittin. Application of experiment-based restraints to the transbilayer double-bond and water distributions of neat DOPC bilayers led to distributions that agreed with the experimental values. Based upon the experimental structure, the restraints improved the simulated structure in some regions while introducing larger differences in others, as might be expected from imperfect force fields. For the DOPC-melittin system, the experimental transbilayer distribution of melittin was used as a restraint. The addition of the peptide caused perturbations of the simulated bilayer structure, but which were larger than observed experimentally. The melittin distribution of the simulation could be fit accurately to a Gaussian with parameters close to the observed ones, indicating that the restraints can be used to produce an ensemble of membrane-bound peptide conformations that are consistent with experiments. Such ensembles pave the way for understanding peptide-bilayer interactions at the atomic level.

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