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A number of membrane proteins act via binding at the water/lipid bilayer interface. An important example of such proteins is provided by the gating-modifier toxins that act on voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels. They are thought to partition to the headgroup region of lipid bilayers, and so provide a good system for probing the nature of interactions of a protein with the water/bilayer interface. We used coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations to compute the one-dimensional potential of mean force (i.e., free energy) profile that governs the interaction between a Kv channel gating-modifier toxin (VSTx1) and model phospholipid bilayers. The reaction coordinate sampled corresponds to the position of the toxin along the bilayer normal. The course-grained representation of the protein and lipids enabled us to explore extended time periods, revealing aspects of toxin/bilayer dynamics and energetics that would be difficult to observe on the timescales currently afforded by atomistic molecular dynamics simulations. In particular, we show for this model system that the bilayer deforms as it interacts with the toxin, and that such deformations perturb the free energy profile. Bilayer deformation therefore adds an additional layer of complexity to be addressed in investigations of membrane/protein systems. In particular, one should allow for local deformations that may arise due to the spatial array of charged and hydrophobic elements of an interfacially located membrane protein.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





3816 - 3826


Amino Acids, Computer Simulation, Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions, Ion Channel Gating, Lipid Bilayers, Models, Molecular, Peptides, Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated, Reproducibility of Results, Spider Venoms, Thermodynamics