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Molecular Mechanism of Ionic-Liquid-Induced Membrane Disruption: Morphological Changes to Bilayers, Multilayers, and Vesicles

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journal contribution
posted on 09.05.2016, 00:00 by Brian Yoo, Yingxi Zhu, Edward J. Maginn
The application of ionic liquids (ILs) in many industrially relevant processes provides an urgent need to better understand their molecular interactions with biological systems. A detailed understanding of the cytotoxicity mechanism of ILs can be helpful in facilitating the molecular design of nontoxic ILs. Using coarse-grained molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we investigate the effects of imidazolium-based ILs on several lipid bilayer morphologies. Our results demonstrate that the asymmetric insertion of IL cations into one side of a lipid bilayer leaflet enhances the leaflet strain, which upon reaching a critical value triggers a morphological disruption in the bilayer. Consistently, the bending modulus of the bilayer is reduced by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude relative to that of an IL-free planar bilayer prior to the disruption event. Our results suggest that ILs that can easily insert into the lipid bilayer without diffusing across or inducing lipid flip-flop can be more disruptive to a lipid biomembrane.