Biochimica et biophysica acta

A thermodynamic approach to alamethicin pore formation.

PMID 24754058


The structure and energetics of alamethicin Rf30 monomer to nonamer in cylindrical pores of 5 to 11Å radius are investigated using molecular dynamics simulations in an implicit membrane model that includes the free energy cost of acyl chain hydrophobic area exposure. Stable, low energy pores are obtained for certain combinations of radius and oligomeric number. The trimer and the tetramer formed 6Å pores that appear closed while the larger oligomers formed open pores at their optimal radius. The hexamer in an 8Å pore and the octamer in an 11Å pore give the lowest effective energy per monomer. However, all oligomers beyond the pentamer have comparable energies, consistent with the observation of multiple conductance levels. The results are consistent with the widely accepted "barrel-stave" model. The N terminal portion of the molecule exhibits smaller tilt with respect to the membrane normal than the C terminal portion, resulting in a pore shape that is a hybrid between a funnel and an hourglass. Transmembrane voltage has little effect on the structure of the oligomers but enhances or decreases their stability depending on its orientation. Antiparallel bundles are lower in energy than the commonly accepted parallel ones and could be present under certain experimental conditions. Dry aggregates (without an aqueous pore) have lower average effective energy than the corresponding aggregates in a pore, suggesting that alamethicin pores may be excited states that are stabilized in part by voltage and in part by the ion flow itself.