Publications / SAND Report

Modeling biomembranes

Frink, Laura J.; Frischknecht, Amalie F.; Plimpton, Steven J.; Sasaki, Darryl Y.

Understanding the properties and behavior of biomembranes is fundamental to many biological processes and technologies. Microdomains in biomembranes or ''lipid rafts'' are now known to be an integral part of cell signaling, vesicle formation, fusion processes, protein trafficking, and viral and toxin infection processes. Understanding how microdomains form, how they depend on membrane constituents, and how they act not only has biological implications, but also will impact Sandia's effort in development of membranes that structurally adapt to their environment in a controlled manner. To provide such understanding, we created physically-based models of biomembranes. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and classical density functional theory (DFT) calculations using these models were applied to phenomena such as microdomain formation, membrane fusion, pattern formation, and protein insertion. Because lipid dynamics and self-organization in membranes occur on length and time scales beyond atomistic MD, we used coarse-grained models of double tail lipid molecules that spontaneously self-assemble into bilayers. DFT provided equilibrium information on membrane structure. Experimental work was performed to further help elucidate the fundamental membrane organization principles.