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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 spread of bacterial resistance to antibiotics poses the need for antimicrobial discovery. With traditional search paradigms being exhausted, approaches that are altogether different from antibiotics may offer promising and creative solutions. Here, we introduce a de novo peptide topology that-by emulating the virus architecture-assembles into discrete antimicrobial capsids. Using the combination of high-resolution and real-time imaging, we demonstrate that these artificial capsids assemble as 20-nm hollow shells that attack bacterial membranes and upon landing on phospholipid bilayers instantaneously (seconds) convert into rapidly expanding pores causing membrane lysis (minutes). The designed capsids show broad antimicrobial activities, thus executing one primary function-they destroy bacteria on contact.

Concepts: Bacteria, Virus, Cell membrane, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotic, Bacterial cell structure, Penicillin, 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 membranes of retina photoreceptors have unique lipid composition. They contain a high concentration of polyunsaturated docosahexaenoic acid, with six double bonds, and are enriched in phosphatidylethanolamines. Based on their phospholipid composition and cholesterol content, membranes of photoreceptors can be divided into three types: plasma membrane, young disks membranes, and old disks membranes. High amount of docosahexaenoic acid, abundant illumination, and high respiratory demands make these membranes sensitive to oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation. Human retinas are not easily available for research, therefore most research is done on bovine retinas. However, to follow, in a controlled manner, the changes in membrane properties caused by different factors it seems advisable to apply carefully prepared models of photoreceptor membranes. Using synthetic lipids we prepared liposome models of three types of photoreceptor membranes, and by means of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy and spin labeling technique we compared polarity and fluidity of those model membranes with the properties of membranes consisting of natural lipids extracted from photoreceptor outer segments of bovine retinas. Additionally, we studied the effect of oxidation on the membrane properties in the presence and in the absence of zeaxanthin, which is an antioxidant naturally present in the human retina. The results show that there are significant differences in polarity and fluidity between all investigated membranes, which reflect differences in their lipid composition. The properties of the membranes made of natural photoreceptor outer segment lipids are most similar to the ones of the models of old disks membranes. Oxidation did not change the membrane properties significantly; however, a slight ordering effect was observed in liposomes made of natural photoreceptor outer segment lipids and in the model of old disks membranes. Zeaxanthin affected polarity and fluidity mostly in the model of old disks membranes. The results show that by careful selection and appropriate proportions of lipid mixtures, it is possible to obtain synthetic membranes of the properties similar to the natural ones.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Antioxidant, Oxidative phosphorylation, Retina, Photoreceptor cell, Electron paramagnetic resonance, Phospholipid, Lipid bilayer


Lipid membranes are extremely stable envelopes allowing cells to survive in various environments and to maintain desired internal composition. Membrane permeation through formation of transversal pores requires substantial external stress. Practically, pores are usually formed by application of lateral tension or transmembrane voltage. Using the same approach as was used for obtaining continuous trajectory of pore formation in the stress-less membrane in the previous article, we now consider the process of pore formation under the external stress. The waiting time to pore formation proved a non-monotonous function of the lateral tension, dropping from infinity at zero tension to a minimum at the tension of several millinewtons per meter. Transmembrane voltage, on the contrary, caused the waiting time to decrease monotonously. Analysis of pore formation trajectories for several lipid species with different spontaneous curvatures and elastic moduli under various external conditions provided instrumental insights into the mechanisms underlying some experimentally observed phenomena.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Force, Membrane protein, Lipid bilayer, Trajectory, Trajectory of a projectile, Projectile, Aquaporin


One of the main differences between bacteria and archaea concerns their membrane composition. Whereas bacterial membranes are made up of glycerol-3-phosphate ester lipids, archaeal membranes are composed of glycerol-1-phosphate ether lipids. Here, we report the construction of a stable hybrid heterochiral membrane through lipid engineering of the bacteriumEscherichia coliBy boosting isoprenoid biosynthesis and heterologous expression of archaeal ether lipid biosynthesis genes, we obtained a viableE. colistrain of which the membranes contain archaeal lipids with the expected stereochemistry. It has been found that the archaeal lipid biosynthesis enzymes are relatively promiscuous with respect to their glycerol phosphate backbone and thatE. colihas the unexpected potential to generate glycerol-1-phosphate. The unprecedented level of 20-30% archaeal lipids in a bacterial cell has allowed for analyzing the effect on the mixed-membrane cell’s phenotype. Interestingly, growth rates are unchanged, whereas the robustness of cells with a hybrid heterochiral membrane appeared slightly increased. The implications of these findings for evolutionary scenarios are discussed.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Archaea, Bacteria, Evolution, Metabolism, Lipid, Lipid bilayer


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