Effects of the Nonimmobilizer Hexafluroethane on the Model Membrane Dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine
Nonimmobilizers are agents that lack anesthetic properties, although their chemical structure is very similar to known anesthetics. The primary action site of both agents, whether at the membrane or target protein level, is still a matter of debate. However, increasing evidence points to the distinct modifications of the membrane physical properties that such agents induce. Such modification may play a role in the mechanism of anesthesia, and may therefore be related to the differences in their
... clinical behavior. Methods: Molecular dynamics (MD) computer simulations have been used to investigate the distribution of a nonimmobilizer, hexafluroethane (HFE, C 2 F 6 ), in a lipid membrane. The biologically relevant liquid-crystal phase of a hydrated dimyristoyl phosphatidyl choline (DMPC) bilayer was used as a membrane model. Two MD simulations corresponding to HFE mole fractions of 6% and 25% have been performed at room temperature and constant ambient pressure, for a duration of 2 nanoseconds each. Results: The equilibrium configurations of HFE in the bilayer show that the nonimmobilizer molecules are evenly distributed along the lipid hydrocarbon chains with a slight preference for the bilayer center. This partitioning induces an expansion of the bilayer thickness and a lateral contraction of the membrane (decrease of the area per lipid). The presence of HFE has essentially no effect on the lipid acyl chain conformations in agreement with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements of the chain order parameters. The partitioning of the nonimmobilizer does not influence the orientation of the lipid headgroup dipole moment. Conclusions: The modifications induced by the presence of the nonimmobilizer HFE on a model membrane are distinct from those previously found for halothane (CF 3 CHBrCl), its anesthetic analogue, and appear to result from different distributions in the lipid bilayer. The results of the MD simulations show that (1) the changes in the average area per lipid and in the membrane thickness are opposite for the two agents and (2) HFE induces no change in the lipid head-group orientation, in contrast to halothane. These different effects (1) on the physical properties of the lipid bilayer and (2) on the electrostatic properties of the membrane-water interface may be linked to different clinical effects, and thus might contribute to the mechanism of general anesthesia.