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An implicit-membrane representation based on the generalized Born theory of solvation has been developed. The method was parameterized against the water-to-cyclohexane insertion free energies of hydrophobic side-chain analogs. Subsequently, the membrane was compared with experimental data from translocon inserted polypeptides and validated by comparison with an independent dataset of six membrane-associated peptides and eight integral membrane proteins of known structure and orientation. Comparison of the insertion energy of alpha-helical model peptides with the experimental values from the biological hydrophobicity scale of Hessa et al. gave a correlation of 93% with a mean unsigned error of 0.64 kcal/mol, when charged residues were ignored. The membrane insertion energy was found to be dependent on residue position. This effect is particularly pronounced for charged and polar residues, which strongly prefer interfacial locations. All integral membrane proteins investigated orient and insert correctly into the implicit-membrane model. Remarkably, the membrane model correctly predicts a partially inserted configuration for the monotopic membrane protein cyclooxygenase, matching experimental and theoretical predictions. To test the applicability and usefulness of the implicit-membrane method, molecular simulations of influenza A M2 as well as the glycophorin A dimer were performed. Both systems remain structurally stable and integrated into the membrane.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





2338 - 2349


Computer Simulation, Energy Transfer, Feasibility Studies, Lipid Bilayers, Membrane Fluidity, Membrane Proteins, Models, Chemical, Models, Molecular, Protein Conformation