Interactions of Monovalent and Divalent Cations at Palmitoyl-Oleoyl-Phosphatidylcholine Interface

James Kruczek, See Wing Chiu, Sameer Varma, Eric Jakobsson, Sagar A. Pandit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Li+ is a biologically active and medically important cation. Experiments show that Li+ modulates some phospholipid bilayer properties in a manner similar to divalent cations, rather than other monovalent cations. We previously performed a comparative simulation study of the interaction of several monovalent cations with palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine bilayers and reported that Li+ exhibited the highest association with lipids and formed a unique tetrahedral coordinated structure with lipid head groups. Here we extend these studies to two biologically important divalent cations, Mg2+ and Ca2+, and observe that, just like monovalent cations, Mg2+ and Ca2+ reduce bilayer areas and increase chain order. Bilayer area changes induced by cations are strongly correlated with the amount of charge inside the headgroup region; however, Mg2+ and Li+ are clear outliers. At the same time though, Mg2+ adsorption in the bilayer is the smallest among all cations, which is in contrast to Li+ that binds strongly to lipids. In fact, in contrast to all other cations, Mg2+ remains fully hydrated in the lipid headgroup region. However, Li+ and Mg2+ share high overlap between their inner-shell coordination topologies. This suggests that Li+ can structurally replace Mg2+, which is bound to other biomolecules with up to fourfold coordination, provided such replacement is energetically feasible. We compute structural topologies and compare them quantitatively using a new weighted-graphs-based method. Finally, we find that the specificity of cation interaction with lipid head groups exhibit consistent trend with the solvation shell energetics of ions in lipid headgroup and bulk water regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10522-10532
Number of pages11
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 13 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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