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On the dynamics of molecular self-assembly and the structural analysis of bilayer membranes using coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations

: Schindler, T.; Kröner, D.; Steinhauser, M.O.


Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. Biomembranes 1858 (2016), Nr.9, S.1955-1963
ISSN: 0005-2736
ISSN: 1879-2642
Fraunhofer EMI ()

We present a molecular dynamics simulation study of the self-assembly of coarse-grained lipid molecules from unbiased random initial configurations. Our lipid model is based on a well-tried CG polymer model with an additional potential that mimics the hydrophobic properties of lipid tails. We find that several stages of self-organization of lipid clusters are involved in the dynamics of bilayer formation and that the resulting equilibrium structures sensitively depend on the strength of hydrophobic interactions hc of the lipid tails and on temperature T. The obtained stable lipid membranes are quantitatively analyzed with respect to their local structure and their degree of order. At equilibrium, we obtain self-stabilizing bilayer membrane structures that exhibit a bending stiffness κB and compression modulus KC comparable to experimental measurements under physiological conditions. We present a phase diagram of our lipid model which covers a sol–gel transition, a liquid (or gel-like) phase including stable bilayer structures and vesicle formation, as well as a quasi–crystalline phase. We also determine the exact conditions for temperature T and degree of hydrophobicity hc for stable bilayer formation including closed vesicles.