Water Ordering at Membrane Interfaces Controls Fusion Dynamics

Membrane interfaces are critical to many cellular functions, yet the vast array of molecular components involved make the fundamental physics of interaction difficult to define. Water has been shown to play an important role in the dynamics of small biological systems, for example when trapped in hydrophobic regions, but the molecular details of water have generally been thought dispensable when considering large membrane interfaces. Nevertheless, spectroscopic data indicate that water has distinct, ordered behavior near membrane surfaces. While coarse-grained simulations have achieved success recently in aiding understanding the dynamics of membrane assemblies, it is natural to ask, does the missing chemical nature of water play an important role? We have therefore performed atomic-resolution simulations of vesicle fusion to understand the role of chemical detail, particularly the molecular structure of water, in membrane fusion and at membrane interfaces more generally. These membrane interfaces present a form of hydrophilic confinement, yielding surprising, non-bulk-like water behavior.