A microscopic view of phospholipid insertion into biological membranes

Josh V. Vermaas, Emad Tajkhorshid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Understanding the process of membrane insertion is an essential step in developing a detailed mechanism, for example, for peripheral membrane protein association and membrane fusion. The highly mobile membrane mimetic (HMMM) has been used to accelerate the membrane association and binding of peripheral membrane proteins in simulations by increasing the lateral diffusion of phospholipid headgroups while retaining an atomistic description of the interface. Through a comparative study, we assess the difference in insertion rate of a free phospholipid into an HMMM as well as into a conventional phospholipid bilayer and develop a detailed mechanistic model of free phospholipid insertion into biological membranes. The mechanistic insertion model shows that successful irreversible association of the free phospholipid to the membrane interface, which results in its insertion, is the rate-limiting step. Association is followed by independent, sequential insertion of the acyl tails of the free phospholipid into the membrane, with splayed acyl tail intermediates. Use of the HMMM is found to replicate the same intermediate insertion states as in the full phospholipid bilayer; however, it accelerates overall insertion by approximately a factor of 3, with the probability of successful association of phospholipid to the membrane being significantly enhanced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1754-1764
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 20 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry

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