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Concept: Lipid bilayer


Polybia-MP1 (MP1) is a bioactive host-defense peptide with known anticancer properties. Its activity is attributed to excess serine (phosphatidylserine (PS)) on the outer leaflet of cancer cells. Recently, higher quantities of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) were also found at these cells' surface. We investigate the interaction of MP1 with model membranes in the presence and absence of POPS (PS) and DOPE (PE) to understand the role of lipid composition in MP1’s anticancer characteristics. Indeed we find that PS lipids significantly enhance the bound concentration of peptide on the membrane by a factor of 7-8. However, through a combination of membrane permeability assays and imaging techniques we find that PE significantly increases the susceptibility of the membrane to disruption by these peptides and causes an order-of-magnitude increase in membrane permeability by facilitating the formation of larger transmembrane pores. Significantly, atomic-force microscopy imaging reveals differences in the pore formation mechanism with and without the presence of PE. Therefore, PS and PE lipids synergistically combine to enhance membrane poration by MP1, implying that the combined enrichment of both these lipids in the outer leaflet of cancer cells is highly significant for MP1’s anticancer action. These mechanistic insights could aid development of novel chemotherapeutics that target pathological changes in the lipid composition of cancerous cells.

Concepts: Protein, Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, Cell membrane, Chemotherapy, Leukemia, Lipid bilayer


The vast majority of membrane proteins are anchored to biological membranes through hydrophobic α-helices. Sequence analysis of high-resolution membrane protein structures show that ionizable amino acid residues are present in transmembrane ™ helices, often with a functional and/or structural role. Here, using as scaffold the hydrophobic TM domain of the model membrane protein glycophorin A (GpA), we address the consequences of replacing specific residues by ionizable amino acids on TM helix insertion and packing, both in detergent micelles and in biological membranes. Our findings demonstrate that ionizable residues are stably inserted in hydrophobic environments, and tolerated in the dimerization process when oriented toward the lipid face, emphasizing the complexity of protein-lipid interactions in biological membranes.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Amino acid, Acid, Cell membrane, Membrane protein, Lipid bilayer, Integral membrane protein


Cholesterol has been suggested to play a role in stable vesicle formation by adjusting the molecular packing of the vesicular bilayer. To explore the mechanisms involved in adjusting the bilayer structure by cholesterol, the molecular packing behavior in a mimic outer layer of cationic dialkyldimethylammonium bromide (DXDAB)/cholesterol vesicular bilayer was investigated by the Langmuir monolayer approach with infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS). The results indicated that the addition of cholesterol in the DXDAB Langmuir monolayers not only restrained the desorption of the DXDAB with short hydrocarbon chains, such as ditetradecyldimethylammonium bromide or dihexadecyldimethylammonium bromide, into the aqueous phase but also induced a condensing effect on the DXDAB monolayers. At a liquid-expanded (LE) state, the ordering effect of cholesterol accompanying the condensing effect occurred in the mixed DXDAB/cholesterol monolayers due to the tendency of maximizing hydrocarbon chain contact between cholesterol and the neighboring hydrocarbon chains. However, for the mixed monolayers containing the DXDAB with long hydrocarbon chains, such as dioctadecyldimethylammonium bromide (DODAB), the disordering effect of cholesterol took place at a liquid-condensed (LC) state. This was related to the molecular structure of cholesterol and hydrocarbon chain length of DODAB. The rigid sterol ring of cholesterol hindered the portion of neighboring hydrocarbon chains from motion. However, the flexible alkyl side-chain of cholesterol along with the corresponding portion of neighboring hydrocarbon chains formed a fluidic region, counteracting the enhanced conformational order induced by the sterol ring of cholesterol. Furthermore, the long hydrocarbon chains of DODAB possessed a more pronounced motion freedom, resulting in a more disordered packing of the monolayers.

Concepts: Hydrocarbon, Physical chemistry, Steroid, Molecular geometry, Lipid bilayer, Infrared spectroscopy, Monolayer, Langmuir


In this data article we provide topologies and force field parameters files for molecular dynamics simulations of lipids in the OPLS-aa force field using the GROMACS package. This is the first systematic parameterization of lipid molecules in this force field. Topologies are provided for four phosphatidylcholines: saturated DPPC, mono-cis unsaturated POPC and DOPC, and mono-trans unsaturated PEPC. Parameterization of the phosphatidylcholines was achieved in two steps: first, we supplemented the OPLS force field parameters for DPPC with new parameters for torsion angles and van der Waals parameters for the carbon and hydrogen atoms in the acyl chains, as well as new partial atomic charges and parameters for torsion angles in the phosphatidylcholine and glycerol moieties [1]. Next, we derived parameters for the cis and trans double bonds and the neighboring them single bonds [2]. Additionally, we provide GROMACS input files with parameters describing simulation conditions (md.mdp), which are strongly recommended to be used with these lipids models. The data are associated with the research article “Cis and trans unsaturated phosphatidylcholine bilayers: a molecular dynamics simulation study” [2] and provided as supporting materials.

Concepts: Molecular dynamics, Atom, Chemical bond, Lipid, Lipid bilayer, Lecithin, GROMACS, OPLS


Lipid droplet (LD), a multi-functional organelle, is often found to associate with other cellular membranous structures and vary in size in a given cell, which may be related to their functional diversity. Here we established a method to separate LD subpopulations from isolated CHO K2 LDs into three different size categories. The subpopulation with smallest LDs was nearly free of ER and other membranous structures while those with larger LDs contained intact ER. These distinct subpopulations of LDs differed in their protein composition and ability to recruit proteins. This method was also applicable to LDs obtained from other sources, such as Huh7 cells, mouse liver and brown adipose tissue, et al. We developed an in vitro assay requiring only isolated LDs, Coenzyme A, and ATP to drive lipid synthesis. The LD subpopulation nearly depleted of ER was able to incorporate fatty acids into triacylglycerol and phospholipids. Together, our data demonstrate that LDs in a given cell are heterogeneous in size and function, and suggest that LDs are one of cellular lipid synthetic organelles.

Concepts: Protein, Cell nucleus, Metabolism, Fatty acid, Fat, Lipid, Lipid bilayer, Glycerol


The aggregation of amyloid-Aβ (Aβ) on lipid bilayers has been implicated as a mechanism by which Aβ exerts its toxicity in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Lipid bilayer thinning has been observed during both oxidative stress and protein aggregation in AD, but whether these pathological modifications of the bilayer correlate with Aβ misfolding is unclear. Here, we studied peptide-lipid interactions in synthetic bilayers of the short-chain lipid dilauroyl phosphatidylcholine (DLPC) as a simplified model for diseased bilayers to determine their impact on Aβ aggregate, protofibril, and fibril formation. Aβ aggregation and fibril formation in membranes composed of dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine (DOPC) or 1- palmitoyl-2-oleoyl phosphatidylcholine (POPC) mimicking normal bilayers served as controls. Differences in aggregate formation and stability were monitored by a combination of thioflavin-T fluorescence, circular dichroism, AFM, TEM, and NMR. Despite the ability of all three lipid bilayers to catalyze aggregation, DLPC accelerates aggregation at much lower concentrations uniquely ablates the fibrillation of Aβ at low μM concentrations. DLPC stabilized globular, membrane-associated oligomers which could disrupt the bilayer integrity. DLPC bilayers also remodeled preformed amyloid fibrils into a pseudo-unfolded, molten globule state which resembled on-pathway, protofibrillar aggregates. While the stabilized, membrane-associated oligomers were found to be nontoxic, the remodeled species displayed toxicity similar to that of conventionally prepared aggregates. These results provide mechanistic insights into the roles that pathologically thin bilayers may play in Aβ aggregation on neuronal bilayers and pathological lipid oxidation may contribute to Aβ misfolding.

Concepts: Protein, Redox, Electrochemistry, Aggregate, Aggregate data, Lipid, Toxicity, Lipid bilayer


The sensing of physical force, mechanosensation, underlies two of five human senses-touch and hearing. How transduction of force in a membrane occurs remains unclear. We asked if a biological membrane could employ kinetic energy to transduce a signal absent tension. Here we show that lipid rafts are dynamic compartments that inactivate the signalling enzyme phospholipase D2 (PLD2) by sequestering the enzyme from its substrate. Mechanical disruption of the lipid rafts activates PLD2 by mixing the enzyme with its substrate to produce the signalling lipid phosphatidic acid (PA). We calculate a latency time of <650 μs for PLD activation by mixing. Our results establish a fast, non-tension mechanism for mechanotransduction where disruption of ordered lipids initiates a mechanosensitive signal for cell growth through mechanical mixing.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Metabolism, Energy, Cell membrane, Diglyceride, Classical mechanics, Potential energy, Lipid bilayer


We created nanometer-scale transmembrane channels in lipid bilayers by means of self-assembled DNA-based nanostructures. Scaffolded DNA origami was used to create a stem that penetrated and spanned a lipid membrane, as well as a barrel-shaped cap that adhered to the membrane, in part via 26 cholesterol moieties. In single-channel electrophysiological measurements, we found similarities to the response of natural ion channels, such as conductances on the order of 1 nanosiemens and channel gating. More pronounced gating was seen for mutations in which a single DNA strand of the stem protruded into the channel. Single-molecule translocation experiments show that the synthetic channels can be used to discriminate single DNA molecules.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Cell membrane, Organelle, Molecule, Membrane protein, Lipid bilayer


We recently demonstrated that daily whole egg consumption during moderate carbohydrate restriction leads to greater increases in plasma HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) and improvements in HDL profiles in metabolic syndrome (MetS) when compared to intake of a yolk-free egg substitute. We further investigated the effects of this intervention on HDL composition and function, hypothesizing that the phospholipid species present in egg yolk modulate HDL lipid composition to increase the cholesterol-accepting capacity of subject serum. Men and women classified with MetS were randomly assigned to consume either three whole eggs (EGG, n = 20) per day or the equivalent amount of egg substitute (SUB, n = 17) throughout a 12-week moderate carbohydrate-restricted (25-30 % of energy) diet. Relative to other HDL lipids, HDL-cholesteryl ester content increased in all subjects, with greater increases in the SUB group. Further, HDL-triacylglycerol content was reduced in EGG group subjects with normal baseline plasma HDL-C, resulting in increases in HDL-CE/TAG ratios in both groups. Phospholipid analysis by mass spectrometry revealed that HDL became enriched in phosphatidylethanolamine in the EGG group, and that EGG group HDL better reflected sphingomyelin species present in the whole egg product at week 12 compared to baseline. Further, macrophage cholesterol efflux to EGG subject serum increased from baseline to week 12, whereas no changes were observed in the SUB group. Together, these findings suggest that daily egg consumption promotes favorable shifts in HDL lipid composition and function beyond increasing plasma HDL-C in MetS.

Concepts: Cholesterol, Metabolism, Nutrition, Egg, Lipid, Lipid bilayer, Egg yolk, Lecithin


Understanding how nanomaterials interact with cell membranes is related to how they cause cytotoxicity and is therefore critical for designing safer biomedical applications. Recently, graphene (a two-dimensional nanomaterial) was shown to have antibacterial activity on Escherichia coli, but its underlying molecular mechanisms remain unknown. Here we show experimentally and theoretically that pristine graphene and graphene oxide nanosheets can induce the degradation of the inner and outer cell membranes of Escherichia coli, and reduce their viability. Transmission electron microscopy shows three rough stages, and molecular dynamics simulations reveal the atomic details of the process. Graphene nanosheets can penetrate into and extract large amounts of phospholipids from the cell membranes because of the strong dispersion interactions between graphene and lipid molecules. This destructive extraction offers a novel mechanism for the molecular basis of graphene’s cytotoxicity and antibacterial activity.

Concepts: Protein, Electron, Bacteria, Cell membrane, Atom, Nanomaterials, Graphene, Lipid bilayer