Atomistic-level study of the interactions between hIAPP protofibrils and membranes: Influence of pH and lipid composition

Zhenyu Qian, Yu Zou, Qingwen Zhang, Peijie Chen, Buyong Ma, Guanghong Wei*, Ruth Nussinov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pathology of type 2 diabetes mellitus is associated with the aggregation of human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) and aggregation-mediated membrane disruption. The interactions of hIAPP aggregates with lipid membrane, as well as the effects of pH and lipid composition at the atomic level, remain elusive. Herein, using molecular dynamics simulations, we investigate the interactions of hIAPP protofibrillar oligomers with lipids, and the membrane perturbation that they induce, when they are partially inserted in an anionic dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylglycerol (DPPG) membrane or a mixed dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylcholine (DPPC)/DPPG (7:3) lipid bilayer under acidic/neutral pH conditions. We observed that the tilt angles and insertion depths of the hIAPP protofibril are strongly correlated with the pH and lipid composition. At neutral pH, the tilt angle and insertion depth of hIAPP protofibrils at a DPPG bilayer reach ~52° and ~1.62 nm with respect to the membrane surface, while they become ~77° and ~1.75 nm at a mixed DPPC/DPPG membrane. The calculated tilt angle of hIAPP at DPPG membrane is consistent with a recent chiral sum frequency generation spectroscopic study. The acidic pH induces a smaller tilt angle of ~40° and a shallower insertion depth (~1.24 nm) of hIAPP at the DPPG membrane surface, mainly due to protonation of His18 near the turn region. These differences mainly result from a combination of distinct electrostatic, van der Waals, hydrogen bonding and salt-bridge interactions between hIAPP and lipid bilayers. The hIAPP-membrane interaction energy analysis reveals that besides charged residues K1, R11 and H18, aromatic residues Phe15 and Phe23 also exhibit strong interactions with lipid bilayers, revealing the crucial role of aromatic residues in stabilizing the membrane-bound hIAPP protofibrils. hIAPP-membrane interactions disturb the lipid ordering and the local bilayer thickness around the peptides. Our results provide atomic-level information of membrane interaction of hIAPP protofibrils, revealing pH-dependent and membrane-modulated hIAPP aggregation at the early stage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1818-1825
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Amyloid oligomer
  • MD simulation
  • Membrane
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • hIAPP


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