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Simulation of a lipid monolayer using molecular dynamics

Abstract

Numerical simulation is often a useful tool f or investigating the behaviour of complex systems with many degrees of freedom. Of the two major methods in this field, the Monte Carlo method and the molecular dynamics method, only the first has been applied to realistic models of lipid monolayers1–5. The term lipid monolayer is used here to describe a class of systems consisting of chain molecules on a liquid substrate, the characteristic properties of which can be summarized as follows. (1) The constituent molecules are amphipathic, that is they consist of a hydrophilic (polar) head group and one or more hydrophobic hydrocarbon chains. (2) Due to the amphipathic character of the molecules, the head groups are constrained to the plane of the substrate, whereas the tails are directed outwards from this plane. (3) The collective properties of the molecules are determined by their short-range repulsive and long-range attractive interactions and by the steric repulsion of the tails. We now present what we believe to be the first molecular dynamics simulation of a realistic model of a lipid monolayer. The model system, which has all three properties enumerated above, shows a first order phase transition from an ordered fluid-like state to a disordered, gas-like state.

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