Capponi, Sara; Freites, J. Alfredo; Tobias, Douglas J.; White, Stephen H.
Interleaflet mixing and coupling in liquid-disordered phospholipid bilayers

Organized as bilayers, phospholipids are the fundamental building blocks of cellular membranes and determine many of their biological functions. Interactions between the two leaflets of the bilayer (interleaflet coupling) have been implicated in the passage of information through membranes. However, physically, the meaning of interleaflet coupling is ill defined and lacks a structural basis. Using all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of fluid phospholipid bilayers of five different lipids with differing degrees of acyl-chain asymmetry, we have examined interleaflet mixing to gain insights into coupling. Reasoning that the transbilayer distribution of terminal methyl groups is an appropriate measure of interleaflet mixing, we calculated the transbilayer distributions of the acyl chain terminal methyl groups for five lipids: dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC), palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine (POPC), stearoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine (SOPC), oleoylmyristoylphosphatidylcholine (OMPC), and dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC). We observed in all cases very strong mixing across the bilayer midplane that diminished somewhat with increasing acyl-chain ordering defined by methylene order parameters. A hallmark of the interleaflet coupling idea is complementarity, which postulates that lipids with short alkyl chains in one leaflet will preferentially associate with lipids with long alkyl chains in the other leaflet. Our results suggest a much more complicated picture for thermally disordered bilayers that we call distributed complementarity, as measured by the difference in the peak positions of the sn-1 and sn-2 methyl distributions in the same leaflet. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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