Membrane-Mediated Protein-Protein Interactions and Connection to Elastic Models: A Coarse-Grained Simulation Analysis of Gramicidin A Association
To further foster the connection between particle based and continuum mechanics models for membrane mediated biological processes, we carried out coarse-grained (CG) simulations of gramicidin A (gA) dimer association and analyzed the results based on the combination of potential of mean force (PMF) and stress field calculations. Similar to previous studies, we observe that the association of gA dimers depends critically on the degree of hydrophobic mismatch, with the estimated binding free energy of >10 kcal/mol in a distearoylphosphatidylcholine bilayer. Qualitative trends in the computed PMF can be understood based on the stress field distributions near a single gA dimer and between a pair of gA dimers. For example, the small PMF barrier, which is ∼1 kcal/mol independent of lipid type, can be captured nearly quantitatively by considering membrane deformation energy associated with the region confined by two gA dimers. However, the PMF well depth is reproduced poorly by a simple continuum model that only considers membrane deformation energy beyond the annular lipids. Analysis of lipid orientation, configuration entropy, and stress distribution suggests that the annular lipids make a significant contribution to the association of two gA dimers. These results highlight the importance of explicitly considering contributions from annular lipids when constructing approximate models to study processes that involve a significant reorganization of lipids near proteins, such as protein-protein association and protein insertion into biomembranes. Finally, large-scale CG simulations indicate that multiple gA dimers also form clusters, although the preferred topology depends on the protein concentration. Even at high protein concentrations, every gA dimer requires contact to lipid hydrocarbons to some degree, and at most three to four proteins are in contact with each gA dimer; this observation highlights another aspect of the importance of interactions between proteins and annular lipids.