Implicit solvent model estimates of the stability of model structures of the alamethicin channel

Amit Kessel, D. Peter Tieleman, Nir Ben-Tal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Alamethicin is a hydrophobic helical peptide of 20 residues, which oligomerizes to form ion-conducting channels in membranes. The behavior of an intact alamethicin channel in POPC bilayers was recently studied, using 2 ns molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of a model hexameric channel. These simulations produced numerous conformations of the channel. In the present study, we used 11 of these channel conformations and carried out continuum-solvent model calculations, similar to those used for the monomers in our previous studies, to investigate the energetics of the channel inside the lipid bilayer. Our results suggest that, out of the 11 channel conformations produced by the MD simulations, only four are stable inside the lipid bilayer, with water-to-membrane free energies of transfer ranging from ∼-6 to ∼-10 kcal/mol. Analysis of the results suggests two causes for the apparent instability of the remainder of the structures inside the lipid bilayer, both resulting from the desolvation of channel polar groups (i.e. their transfer from the aqueous phase into the bilayer). The first is specific, uncompensated backbone hydrogen bonds, which exist in the region of the channel exposed to the hydrocarbon of the lipid bilayer. The second is exposure of intra-pore water molecules to the surrounding lipid. Thus, the association of these structures with the membrane involves a large electrostatic desolvation free-energy penalty. The apparent conflict between continuum-solvent and MD calculations, and its significance for the interpretation of membrane proteins simulations, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-28
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


FundersFunder number
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry


    • Continuum-solvent models
    • Membrane curvature
    • Molecular dynamics
    • Peptide-membrane interactions
    • Poisson equation


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