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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.


Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





627 - 636


Alamethicin, Amino Acid Sequence, Chemical Phenomena, Chemistry, Physical, Computer Simulation, Crystallography, X-Ray, Ion Channel Gating, Ion Channels, Lipid Bilayers, Membrane Potentials, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Protein Conformation, Protein Structure, Secondary