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J Phys Chem A. 2013 Aug 15;117(32):7114-23. doi: 10.1021/jp400371k. Epub 2013 Apr 18.

Simulation studies of structure and edge tension of lipid bilayer edges: effects of tail structure and force-field.

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Department of Chemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


Molecular dynamics simulations of lipid bilayer ribbons have been performed to investigate the structures and line tensions associated with free bilayer edges. Simulations carried out for dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine with three different force-field parameter sets yielded edge line tensions of 45 ± 2 pN, over 50% greater than the most recently reported experimentally determined value for this lipid. Edge tensions obtained from simulations of a series of phosphatidylcholine lipid bilayer ribbons with saturated acyl tails of length 12-16 carbons and with monounsaturated acyl tails of length 14-18 carbons could be correlated with the excess area associated with forming the edge, through a two-parameter fit. Saturated-tail lipids underwent local thickening near the edge, producing denser packing that correlated with lower line tensions, while unsaturated-tail lipids showed little or no local thickening. In a dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine ribbon initiated in a tilted gel-phase structure, lipid headgroups tended to tilt toward the nearer edge producing a herringbone pattern, an accommodation that may account for the reported edge-induced stabilization of an ordered structure at temperatures near a lipid gel-fluid phase transition.

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