Coupling between Lipid Shape and Membrane Curvature
Using molecular dynamics simulations, we examine the behavior of lipids whose preferred curvature can be systematically varied. This curvature is imposed by controlling the headgroup size of a coarse-grained lipid model recently developed by us. To validate this approach, we examine self-assembly of each individual lipid type and observe the complete range of expected bilayer and micelle phases. We then examine binary systems consisting of lipids with positive and negative preferred curvature and find a definite sorting effect. Lipids with positive preferred curvature are found in greater proportions in outer monolayers with the opposite observed for lipids with negative preferred curvature. We also observe a similar, but slightly stronger effect for lipids in a developing spherical bud formed by adhesion to a colloid (e.g., a viral capsid). Importantly, the magnitude of this effect in both cases was large only for regions with strong mean curvature (radii of curvature ,10 nm). Our results suggest that lipid shape must act in concert with other physico-chemical effects such as phase transitions or interactions with proteins to produce strong sorting in cellular pathways.