Simulation studies of alamethicin-bilayer interactions.
Biggin PC., Breed J., Son HS., Sansom MS.
Alamethicin is an alpha-helical peptide that forms voltage-activated ion channels. Experimental data suggest that channel formation occurs via voltage-dependent insertion of alamethicin helices into lipid bilayers, followed by self-assembly of inserted helices to form a parallel helix bundle. Changes in the kink angle of the alamethicin helix about its central proline residue have also been suggested to play a role in channel gating. Alamethicin helices generated by simulated annealing and restrained molecular dynamics adopt a kink angle similar to that in the x-ray crystal structure, even if such simulations start with an idealized unkinked helix. This suggests that the kinked helix represents a stable conformation of the molecule. Molecular dynamics simulations in the presence of a simple bilayer model and a transbilayer voltage difference are used to explore possible mechanisms of helix insertion. The bilayer is represented by a hydrophobicity potential. An alamethicin helix inserts spontaneously in the absence of a transbilayer voltage. Application of a cis positive voltage decreases the time to insertion. The helix kink angle fluctuates during the simulations. Insertion of the helix is associated with a decrease in the mean kink angle, thus helping the alamethicin molecule to span the bilayer. The simulation results are discussed in terms of models of alamethicin channel gating.