Molecular dynamics simulation studies of lipid bilayer systems.
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The main structural element of biological membranes is a liquid-crystalline lipid bilayer. Other constituents, i.e. proteins, sterols and peptides, either intercalate into or loosely attach to the bilayer. We applied a molecular dynamics simulation method to study membrane systems at various levels of compositional complexity. The studies were started from simple lipid bilayers containing a single type phosphatidylcholine (PC) and water molecules (PC bilayers). As a next step, cholesterol (Chol) molecules were introduced to the PC bilayers (PC-Chol bilayers). These studies provided detailed information about the structure and dynamics of the membrane/water interface and the hydrocarbon chain region in bilayers built of various types of PCs and Chol. This enabled studies of membrane systems of higher complexity. They included the investigation of an integral membrane protein in its natural environment of a PC bilayer, and the antibacterial activity of magainin-2. The latter study required the construction of a model bacterial membrane which consisted of two types of phospholipids and counter ions. Whenever published experimental data were available, the results of the simulations were compared with them.
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