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Functional Group Distributions, Partition Coefficients, and Resistance Factors in Lipid Bilayers Using Site Identification by Ligand Competitive Saturation

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journal contribution
posted on 30.04.2021, 18:37 by Christoffer Lind, Poonam Pandey, Richard W. Pastor, Alexander D. MacKerell
Small molecules such as metabolites and drugs must pass through the membrane of the cell, a barrier primarily comprising phospholipid bilayers and embedded proteins. To better understand the process of passive diffusion, knowledge of the ability of various functional groups to partition across bilayers and the associated energetics would be of utility. In the present study, the site identification by ligand competitive saturation (SILCS) methodology has been applied to sample the distributions of a diverse set of chemical solutes representing the functional groups of small molecules across phospholipid bilayers composed of 0.9:0.1 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine/cholesterol and a mixture of 0.52:0.18:0.3 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-l-serine/1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine/cholesterol used in parallel artificial membrane permeability assay experiments. A combination of oscillating chemical potential grand canonical Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics in the SILCS simulations was applied to achieve solute sampling through the bilayers and surrounding aqueous environment from which the distribution of solutes and the functional groups they represent were obtained. Results show differential distribution of aliphatic versus aromatic groups with the former having increased sampling in the center of the bilayers versus in the region of the glycerol linker for the latter. Variations in the distribution of different polar groups are evident, with large differences between negative acetate and positive methylammonium with accumulation of the polar-neutral and acetate solutes above the bilayer head groups. Conversion of the distributions to absolute free energies allows for a detailed understanding of energetics of functional groups in different regions of the bilayers and for calculation of absolute free-energy profiles of multifunctional drug-like molecules across the bilayers from which partition coefficients and resistance factors suitable for insertion into the homogenous solubility–diffusion equation for calculation of permeability were obtained. Comparisons of the calculated bilayer/solution partition coefficients with 1-octanol/water experimental data for both drug-like molecules and the solutes show overall good agreement, validating the calculated distributions and associated absolute free-energy profiles.

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