Methodologies for the analysis of instantaneous lipid diffusion in MD simulations of large membrane systems.
Chavent M., Reddy T., Goose J., Dahl ACE., Stone JE., Jobard B., Sansom MSP.
Interactions between lipids and membrane proteins play a key role in determining the nanoscale dynamic and structural properties of biological membranes. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations provide a valuable tool for studying membrane models, complementing experimental approaches. It is now possible to simulate large membrane systems, such as simplified models of bacterial and viral envelope membranes. Consequently, there is a pressing need to develop tools to visualize and quantify the dynamics of these immense systems, which typically comprise millions of particles. To tackle this issue, we have developed visual and quantitative analyses of molecular positions and their velocity field using path line, vector field and streamline techniques. This allows us to highlight large, transient flow-like movements of lipids and to better understand crowding within the lipid bilayer. The current study focuses on visualization and analysis of lipid dynamics. However, the methods are flexible and can be readily applied to e.g. proteins and nanoparticles within large complex membranes. The protocols developed here are readily accessible both as a plugin for the molecular visualization program VMD and as a module for the MDAnalysis library.