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Biophys J. 1995 Oct;69(4):1230-45.

Incorporation of surface tension into molecular dynamics simulation of an interface: a fluid phase lipid bilayer membrane.

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National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801, USA.


In this paper we report on the molecular dynamics simulation of a fluid phase hydrated dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine bilayer. The initial configuration of the lipid was the x-ray crystal structure. A distinctive feature of this simulation is that, upon heating the system, the fluid phase emerged from parameters, initial conditions, and boundary conditions determined independently of the collective properties of the fluid phase. The initial conditions did not include chain disorder characteristic of the fluid phase. The partial charges on the lipids were determined by ab initio self-consistent field calculations and required no adjustment to produce a fluid phase. The boundary conditions were constant pressure and temperature. Thus the membrane was not explicitly required to assume an area/phospholipid molecule thought to be characteristic of the fluid phase, as is the case in constant volume simulations. Normal to the membrane plane, the pressure was 1 atmosphere, corresponding to the normal laboratory situation. Parallel to the membrane plane a negative pressure of -100 atmospheres was applied, derived from the measured surface tension of a monolayer at an air-water interface. The measured features of the computed membrane are generally in close agreement with experiment. Our results confirm the concept that, for appropriately matched temperature and surface pressure, a monolayer is a close approximation to one-half of a bilayer. Our results suggest that the surface area per phospholipid molecule for fluid phosphatidylcholine bilayer membranes is smaller than has generally been assumed in computational studies at constant volume. Our results confirm that the basis of the measured dipole potential is primarily water orientations and also suggest the presence of potential barriers for the movement of positive charges across the water-headgroup interfacial region of the phospholipid.

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