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Mol Pharm. 2011 Dec 5;8(6):2204-15. doi: 10.1021/mp2000204. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

An atomic and molecular view of the depth dependence of the free energies of solute transfer from water into lipid bilayers.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, United States.


Molecular interactions and orientations responsible for differences in 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) bilayer partitioning of three structurally related drug-like molecules (4-ethylphenol, phenethylamine, and tyramine) were investigated. This work is based on previously reported molecular dynamics (MD) simulations that determined their transverse free energy profiles across the bilayer. Previously, the location where the transfer free energy of the three solutes is highest, which defines the barrier domain for permeability, was found to be the bilayer center, while the interfacial region was found to be the preferred binding region. Contributions of the amino (NH2) and hydroxyl (OH) functional groups to the transfer free energies from water to the interfacial region were found to be very small both experimentally and by MD simulation, suggesting that the interfacial binding of these solutes is hydrophobically driven and occurs with minimal loss of hydrogen-bonding interactions of the polar functional groups which can occur with either water or phospholipid head groups. Therefore, interfacial binding is relatively insensitive to the number or type of polar functional groups on the solute. In contrast, the relative solute free energy in the barrier domain is highly sensitive to the number of polar functional groups on the molecule. The number and types of hydrogen bonds formed between the three solutes and polar phospholipid atoms or with water molecules were determined as a function of solute position in the bilayer. Minima were observed in the number of hydrogen bonds formed by each solute at the center of the bilayer, coinciding with a decrease in the number of water molecules in DOPC as a function of distance away from the interfacial region. In all regions, hydrogen bonds with water molecules account for the majority of hydrogen-bonding interactions observed for each solute. Significant orientational preferences for the solutes are evident in certain regions of the bilayer (e.g., within the ordered chain region and near the interfacial region 20-25 Å from the bilayer center). The preferred orientations are those that preserve favorable molecular interactions for each solute, which vary with the solute structure.

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