Efficient molecular mechanics simulations of the folding, orientation, and assembly of peptides in lipid bilayers using an implicit atomic solvation model

Andrew J. Bordner, Barry Zorman, Ruben Abagyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Membrane proteins comprise a significant fraction of the proteomes of sequenced organisms and are the targets of approximately half of marketed drugs. However, in spite of their prevalence and biomedical importance, relatively few experimental structures are available due to technical challenges. Computational simulations can potentially address this deficit by providing structural models of membrane proteins. Solvation within the spatially heterogeneous membrane/solvent environment provides a major component of the energetics driving protein folding and association within the membrane. We have developed an implicit solvation model for membranes that is both computationally efficient and accurate enough to enable molecular mechanics predictions for the folding and association of peptides within the membrane. We derived the new atomic solvation model parameters using an unbiased fitting procedure to experimental data and have applied it to diverse problems in order to test its accuracy and to gain insight into membrane protein folding. First, we predicted the positions and orientations of peptides and complexes within the lipid bilayer and compared the simulation results with solid-state NMR structures. Additionally, we performed folding simulations for a series of host-guest peptides with varying propensities to form alpha helices in a hydrophobic environment and compared the structures with experimental measurements. We were also able to successfully predict the structures of amphipathic peptides as well as the structures for dimeric complexes of short hexapeptides that have experimentally characterized propensities to form beta sheets within the membrane. Finally, we compared calculated relative transfer energies with data from experiments measuring the effects of mutations on the free energies of translocon-mediated insertion of proteins into lipid bilayers and of combined folding and membrane insertion of a beta barrel protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-911
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Amphipathic peptide
  • Implicit solvation model
  • Membrane proteins
  • Molecular mechanics
  • Peptide folding and association

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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