Continuum solvent model calculations of alamethicin-membrane interactions: Thermodynamic aspects

Amit Kessel, David S. Cafiso, Nir Ben-Tal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alamethicin is a 20-amino acid antibiotic peptide that forms voltage- gated ion channels in lipid bilayers. Here we report calculations of its association free energy with membranes. The calculations take into account the various free-energy terms that contribute to the transfer of the peptide from the aqueous phase into bilayers of different widths. The electrostatic and nonpolar contributions to the solvation free energy are calculated using continuum solvent models. The contributions from the lipid perturbation and membrane deformation effects and the entropy loss associated with peptide immobilization in the bilayer are estimated from a statistical thermodynamic model. The calculations were carded out using two classes of experimentally observed conformations, both of which are helical: the NMR and the x-ray crystal structures. Our calculations show that alamethicin is unlikely to partition into bilayers in any of the NMR conformations because they have uncompensated backbone hydrogen bonds and their association with the membrane involves a large electrostatic solvation free energy penalty. In contrast, the x-ray conformations provide enough backbone hydrogen bonds for the peptide to associate with bilayers. We tested numerous transmembrane and surface orientations of the peptide in bilayers, and our calculations indicate that the most favorable orientation is transmembrane, where the peptide protrudes ~4 Å into the water-membrane interface, in very good agreement with electron paramagnetic resonance and oriented circular dichroism measurements. The calculations were carried out using two alamethicin isoforms: one with glutamine and the other with glutamate in the 18th position. The calculations indicate that the two isoforms have similar membrane orientations and that their insertion into the membrane is likely to involve a 2-Å, deformation of the bilayer, again, in good agreement with experimental data. The implications of the results for the biological function of alamethicin and its capacity to oligomerize and form ion channels are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-583
Number of pages13
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


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