A study of the interaction between cell membranes and small molecules derived from lignin, a protective phenolic biopolymer found in vascular plants, is crucial for identifying their potential as pharmacological and toxicological agents. In this work, the interactions of model cell membranes [supported 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) lipid bilayers] are compared for three βO4 dimers of coniferyl alcohol (G lignin monomer): guaiacylglycerol guaiacol ester with a hydroxypropenyl (HOC3H4-) tail (G-βO4′-G), a truncated GG dimer without HOC3H4- (G-βO4′-truncG), and a benzylated GG dimer (benzG-βO4′-G). The uptake of the lignin dimers (per mass of lipid) and the energy dissipation (a measure of bilayer disorder) are higher for benzG-βO4′-G and G-βO4′-truncG than those for G-βO4′-G in the gel-phase DPPC bilayer, as measured using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D). A similar uptake of G-βO4′-truncG is observed for a fluid-phase bilayer of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, suggesting that the effect of the bilayer phase on dimer uptake is minimal. The effects of increasing lignin dimer concentration are examined through an analysis of density profiles, potential of mean force curves, lipid order parameters, and bilayer area compressibilities (disorder) in the lipid bilayers obtained from molecular dynamics simulations. Dimer distributions and potentials of mean force indicate that the penetration into bilayers is higher for benzG-βO4′-G and G-βO4′-truncG than that for G-βO4′-G, consistent with the QCM-D results. Increased lipid tail disorder due to dimer penetration leads to a thinning and softening of the bilayers. Minor differences in the structure of lignin derivatives (such as truncating the hydroxypropenyl tail) have significant impacts on their ability to penetrate lipid bilayers.
Proteolytic processing of the retroviral Pol polyprotein precursor produces protease (PR), reverse transcriptase (RT), and integrase (IN), except in foamy viruses (FVs) where only the IN domain is released. Here, we report the 2.9 Å resolution crystal structure of the mature PR-RT from prototype FV (PFV) needed for processing and reverse transcription. The monomeric PFV PR exhibits similar architecture as the HIV-1 PR but the N- and C-terminal residues are unstructured. A C-terminal extension of the PR folds into two helices that supports the RT palm subdomain and anchors the PR next to the RT. The subdomains of RT: fingers, palm, thumb, and connection, and the RNase H domain, are connected by flexible linkers and spatially arranged similarly to those in the HIV-1 RT p51 subunit. Significant spatial and conformational domain rearrangements are required for nucleic acid binding. This offers structural insight into retroviral RT conformational maturation and architecture of immature enzymes.
Transport of single molecules in nanochannels or nanoslits might be used to identify them via their transit (flight) times. In this paper, we present molecular dynamics simulations of transport of single deoxynucleotide 5′-monophoshates (dNMP) in aqueous solution under pressure-driven flow, to average velocities between 0.4 and 1.0 m/s, in 3 nm wide slits with hydrophobic walls. The simulation results show that, while moving along the slit, the mononucleotides are adsorbed and desorbed from the walls multiple times. For the simulations, the estimated minimum slit length required for separation of the dNMP flight time distributions is about 5.9 μm, and the minimum analysis time per dNMP is about 10 μs. These are determined by the nature of the nucleotide–wall interactions, channel width, and by the flow characteristics. A simple analysis using realistic dNMP velocities shows that, in order to reduce the effects of diffusional broadening and keep the analysis time per dNMP reasonably small, the nucleotide velocity should be relatively high. Tailored surface chemistry could lead to further reduction of the analysis time toward its minimum value for a given driving force.
There is potential for flight time based DNA sequencing involving disassembly into individual nucleotides which would pass through a nanochannel with two or more detectors. We performed molecular dynamics simulations of electrophoretic motion of single DNA nucleotides through 3 nm wide hydrophobic slits with both smooth and rough walls. The electric field (E) varied from 0.0 to 0.6 V/nm. The nucleotides adsorb and desorb from walls multiple times during their transit through the slit. The nucleotide–wall interactions differed due to nucleotide hydrophobicities and wall roughness which determined duration and frequency of nucleotide adsorptions and their velocities while adsorbed. Transient association of nucleotides with one, two, or three sodium ions occurred, but the mean association numbers (ANs) were weak functions of nucleotide type. Nucleotide–wall interactions contributed more to separation of nucleotide flight time distributions than ion association and thus indicate that nucleotide–wall interactions play a defining role in successfully discriminating between nucleotides on the basis of their flight times through nanochannels/slits. With smooth walls, smaller nucleotides moved faster, but with rough walls larger nucleotides moved faster due to fewer favorable wall adsorption sites. This indicates that roughness, or surface patterning, might be exploited to achieve better time-of-flight based discrimination between nucleotides.
SIMtoEXP is a software package designed to facilitate the comparison of biomembrane simulations with experimental X-ray and neutron scattering data. It has the following features: (1) Accepts number density profiles from simulations in a standard but flexible format. (2) Calculates the electron density ε(z) and neutron scattering length density ν(z) profiles along the z direction (i.e., normal to the membrane) and their respective Fourier transforms (i.e., Fε[qz] and Fν[qz]). The resultant four functions are then displayed graphically. (3) Accepts experimental Fε(qz) and Fν(qz) data for graphical comparison with simulations. (4) Allows for lipids and other large molecules to be parsed into component groups by the user and calculates the component volumes following Petrache et al. (Biophys J 72:2237–2242, 1997). The software then calculates and displays the contributions of each component group as volume probability profiles, ρ(z), as well as the contributions of each component to ε(z) and ν(z).
The structural parameters of fluid phase bilayers composed of phosphatidylcholines with fully saturated, mixed, and branched fatty acid chains, at several temperatures, have been determined by simultaneously analyzing small-angle neutron and X-ray scattering data. Bilayer parameters, such as area per lipid and overall bilayer thickness have been obtained in conjunction with intrabilayer structural parameters (e.g. hydrocarbonregion thickness). The results have allowed us to assess the effect of temperature and hydrocarbon chain composition on bilayer structure. For example, we found that for all lipids there is, not surprisingly, an increase in fatty acid chain trans–gauche isomerization with increasing temperature. Moreover, this increase in trans–gauche isomerization scales with fatty acid chain length in mixed chain lipids. However, in the case of lipids with saturated fatty acid chains, trans–gauche isomerization is increasingly tempered by attractive chain–chain van der Waals interactions with increasing chain length. Finally, our results confirm a strong dependence of lipid chain dynamics as a function of double bond position along fatty acid chains.
Additive force fields are designed to account for induced electronic polarization in a mean-field average way, using effective empirical fixed charges. The limitation of this approximation is cause for serious concerns, particularly in the case of lipid membranes, where the molecular environment undergoes dramatic variations over microscopic length scales. A polarizable force field based on the classical Drude oscillatoroffers a practical and computationally efficient framework for an improved representation of electrostatic interactions in molecular simulations. Building on the first-generation Drude polarizable force field for the dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) molecule, the present effort was undertaken to improve this initial model and expand the force field to a wider range of phospholipid molecules. New lipids parametrized include dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC), dilauroylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC), 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC), 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC), dipalmitoylphosphatidylethanolamine(DPPE), 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (POPE), and 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (DOPE). The iterative optimization protocol employed in this effort led to lipid models that achieve a good balance between reproducing quantum mechanical data on model compound representative of phospholipids and reproducing a range of experimental condensed phase properties of bilayers. A parametrization strategy based on a restrained ensemble−maximum entropy methodology was used to help accurately match the experimental NMR order parameters in the polar headgroup region. All the parameters were developed to be compatible with the remainder of the Drude polarizable force field, which includes water, ions, proteins, DNA, and selected carbohydrates.
The design of artificial microswimmers is often inspired by the strategies of natural microorganisms. Many of these creatures exploit the fact that elasticity breaks the time-reversal symmetry of motion at low Reynolds numbers, but this principle has been notably absent from model systems of active, self-propelled microswimmers. Here we introduce a class of microswimmers that spontaneously self-assembles and swims without using external forces, driven instead by surface phase transitions induced by temperature variations. The swimmers are made from alkane droplets dispersed in an aqueous surfactant solution, which start to self-propel on cooling, pushed by rapidly growing thin elastic tails. When heated, the same droplets recharge by retracting their tails, swimming for up to tens of minutes in each cycle. Thermal oscillations of approximately 5 °C induce the swimmers to harness heat from the environment and recharge multiple times. We develop a detailed elasto-hydrodynamic model of these processes and highlight the molecular mechanisms involved. The system offers a convenient platform for examining symmetry breaking in the motion of swimmers exploiting flagellar elasticity. The mild conditions and biocompatible media render these microswimmers potential probes for studying biological propulsion and interactions between artificial and biological swimmers.
Catalytic water oxidation is a required process for clean energy production based on the concept of artificial photosynthesis. Here, we provide in situ spectroscopic and computational analysis for the closest known photosystem II analog, [Co4O4]n+ ([Co4O4Py4Ac4]0, Py = pyridine and Ac = CH3COO−), which catalyzes electrochemical water oxidation. In situ extended X-ray absorption fine structure detects an ultrashort, CoIV=O (∼1.67 Å) moiety, a crucial intermediate for O–O bond formation. Density function theory analyses show that the intermediate has two CoIV centers and a CoIV=O unit of strong radicaloid character sufficient to support a CoIV=O + H2O = Co–OOH + H+ transition, where the carboxyl ligand accepts the proton and the bridging oxygen stabilizes the peroxide via hydrogen bonding. The proposed water nucleophilic attack mechanism accounts for all prior spectroscopic evidence on the Co4O44+ core. Our results are important for the design and development of efficient water oxidation catalysts, which contribute to the ultimate goal of clean energy from artificial photosynthesis.
The Protein Folding problem::The protein folding problem is the most important unsolved problem in structural biochemistry. The problem consists of three related puzzles: (1) what is the physical folding code? (2) what is the folding mechanism? and (3) can we predict the 3D structure from the amino acid sequences of proteins? Bearing in mind the importance of protein folding, misfolding, aggregation and assembly in many different disciplines, from biophysics to biomedicine, finding solutions that would be generally applicable is of the utmost importance in biosciences