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Structural and Kinetic Properties of α-Tocopherol in Phospholipid Bilayers, a Molecular Dynamics Simulation Study

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journal contribution
posted on 31.12.2009 by Shan-Shan Qin, Zhi-Wu Yu, Yang-Xin Yu
Structural and kinetic properties of vitamin E in biomembranes provide the key to understanding the biological functions of this lipophilic vitamin. We report a series of molecular dynamics simulations of two α-tocopherol/phosphatidylcholine systems and two α-tocopherol/phosphatidylethanolamine systems in water at 280, 310, and 350 K. The preferential position, hydrogen bonding, orientation, and dynamic properties of the α-tocopherol molecule in the bilayers have been examined. In all the four systems simulated, the vitamin remains in one leaflet of lipid bilayer at 280 and 310 K but flips over from one side to the other at 350 K within 200 ns of the simulation. The hydroxyl oxygen in the headgroup of α-tocopherol preferred a location between the third and the fifth carbon atom in the sn-2 acyl chains of the lipids. Hydrogen bonding analysis shows that the hydrogen bonds are mainly with the oxygens of the fatty acid esters rather than with the phosphate oxygens of the lipid molecule, and those with the amino groups are trivial in the case of phosphatidylethanolamines, at all three temperatures. The hydrogen bonds with phosphatidylethanolamines are more stable than those with phosphatidylcholines at low temperatures. The orientation of α-tocopherol in the bilayers is relatively flexible: the chromanol ring takes various tilt angles with respect to the bilayer normal, and the isoprenyl chain is mobile and able to adopt many different conformers. Calculation of lateral diffusion coefficients of α-tocopherol and phospholipid molecules shows that α-tocopherol has a comparable diffusion rate with phospholipid molecules at the gel phase but diffuses more rapidly than lipid molecules at the liquid-crystal phase.

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