Molecular dynamics simulations have been done on a system consisting of the polypeptide membrane channel former gramicidin, plus water molecules in the channel and caps of waters at the two ends of the channel. In the absence of explicit simulation of the surrounding membrane, the helical form of the channel was maintained by artificial restraints on the peptide motion. The characteristic time constant of the artificial restraint was varied to assess the effect of the restraints on the channel structure and water motions. Time-correlation analysis was done on the motions of individual channel waters and on the motions of the center of mass of the channel waters. It is found that individual water molecules confined in the channel execute higher frequency motions than bulk water, for all degrees of channel peptide restraint. The center-of-mass motion of the chain of channel waters (which is the motion that is critical for transmembrane transport, due to the mandatory single filing of water in the channel) does not exhibit these higher frequency motions. The mobility of the water chain is dramatically reduced by holding the channel rigid. Thus permeation through the channel is not like flow through a rigid pipe; rather permeation is facilitated by peptide motion. For the looser restraints we used, the mobility of the water chain was not very much affected by the degree of restraint. Depending on which set of experiments is considered, the computed mobility of our water chain in the flexible channel is four to twenty times too high to account for the experimentally measured resistance of the gramicidin channel to water flow. From this result it appears likely that the peptide motions of an actual gramicidin channel embedded in a lipid membrane may be more restrained than in our flexible channel model, and that these restraints may be a significant modulator of channel permeability. For the completely rigid channel model the "trapping" of the water molecules in preferred positions throughout the molecular dynamics run precludes a reasonable assessment of mobility, but it seems to be quite low.
ASJC Scopus subject areas