Molecular dynamics simulation analyses of viral fusion peptides in membranes prone to phase transition: effects on membrane curvature, phase behavior and lipid-water interface destabilization


To gain insight into the atomistic details of membrane fusion induced by fusogenic peptides, molecular dynamic simulations of synthetic peptides, derived from viral fusion proteins, contained in lipid bilayers were performed. A 20 amino acid peptide from the N-terminus of the influenza HA fusion peptide (WT20) assumed the oblique orientation at the interface between water and the membrane made up of dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC)/palmitic acid (PA), as reported previously for different membranes. Simulations of WT20 embedded in bilayer membranes made up of dioleoylphos-phatidylethanolamine (DOPE) and DPPC/PA showed a positive curvature-inducing effect, whereas WT20 showed a negative curvature-inducing effect on a DPPC bilayer. In phase re-constitution analyses starting from a random mixture of DPPC, PA and water molecules, WT20 weakly stabilized an inverted hexagonal phase. In the latter analyses WT20 preferentially assumed a transmembrane orientation as opposed to the interfacial orientation, regardless of the phase to which the system settled (lamellar vs. inverted hexagonal). In another set of analyses using systems containing a water layer between the apposed DPPC/PA (and DOPE) monolayers, the behavior of WT20 during the formation of an intermembrane connection (or stalk) was examined. Comparison among the mutants supports a view that the oblique orientation of WT20 facilitates the perturbation of the lipid-water interface and the stalk formation. Taken together, these results imply that the influenza HA fusion peptide can have substantial effects on the membrane curvature and can assume a wide range of orientation/position in membranes depending on the local environment of the lipid/water system. Its movability and oblique orientation appear to be associated with its ability to perturb membrane/water interfaces.

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Nishizawa, M. and Nishizawa, K. (2010) Molecular dynamics simulation analyses of viral fusion peptides in membranes prone to phase transition: effects on membrane curvature, phase behavior and lipid-water interface destabilization. Journal of Biophysical Chemistry, 1, 19-32. doi: 10.4236/jbpc.2010.11003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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