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Modeling the partitioning of amphiphilic molecules and co-solvents in biomembranes...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Applied Crystallography
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 12

Amphiphilic co-solvents can have a significant impact on the structure, organization and physical properties of lipid bilayers. Describing the mutual impact of partitioning and induced structure changes is therefore a crucial consideration for a range of topics such as anesthesia and other pharmacokinetic effects, as well as microbial solvent tolerance in the production of biofuels and other fermentation products, where molecules such as ethanol, butanol or acetic acid might be generated. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) is a key method for studying lipid and polymer bilayer structures, with many models for extracting bilayer structure (thickness, area per lipid etc.) from scattering data in use today. However, the molecular details of co-solvent partitioning are conflated with induced changes to bilayer structure, making interpretation and modeling of the scattering curves a challenge with the existing set of models. To address this, a model of a bilayer structure is presented which invokes a two-term partition constant accounting for the localization of the co-solvent within the bilayer. This model was validated using a series of SANS measurements of lipid vesicles in the presence of the co-solvent tetra­hydro­furan (THF), showing several strategies of how to deploy the two-parameter partition constant model to describe scattering data and extract both structure and partitioning information from the data. Molecular dynamics simulations are then used to evaluate assumptions of the model, provide additional molecular scale details and illustrate its complementary nature to the data fitting procedure. This approach results in estimates of the partition coefficient for THF in 1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho­choline at 35°C, along with an estimate of the fraction of THF residing in the hydro­phobic core of the membrane. The authors envision that this model will be applicable to a wide range of other bilayer/amphiphile interactions and provide the associated code needed to implement this model as a fitting algorithm for scattering data in the SasView suite.