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Computational Modeling of Poly(alkylthiophene) Conductive Polymer Insertion into Phospholipid Bilayers

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posted on 09.10.2007, 00:00 authored by Alik S. Widge, Yoky Matsuoka, Maria Kurnikova
We have previously demonstrated that some poly(alkylthiophenes) (PATs) are able to increase the electrical conductance of unsupported phospholipid bilayers and have hypothesized that this effect is due to the ability of some PAT side chains to permit stable insertion into the bilayer. We have further proposed the development of long-term intracellular electrodes based on that phenomenon. In this article, we apply molecular dynamics techniques to study the insertion of two model PATs into a patch of a lipid bilayer. Steered molecular dynamics is used to obtain potential trajectories of insertion, followed by umbrella sampling to determine the free-energy change upon insertion. Our results indicate that both branched-side-chain poly(3-(2-ethylhexyl)thiophene) (EHPT) and straight-side-chain poly(3-hexylthiophene) (HPT) are able to enter the bilayer but only EHPT can cross the center of the membrane and establish an electrical bridge. HPT penetrates the head groups but is not able to enter the alkyl tail phase. These findings support the feasibility of our electrode concept and raise questions regarding the mechanisms by which branched side chains grant PATs greater solubility in a lipid bilayer environment. The parameters and methods used in this study establish a novel framework for studying these and similar systems, and the results hold promise for the use of EHPT in biosensing and neural interfacing.

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