Lim, G. S. L.; Zidar, J.; Cheong, D. W. L.; Jaenicke, S.; Klähn, M., Impact of ionic liquids in aqueous solution on bacterial plasma membranes studied with molecular dynamics simulations. The Journal Of Physical Chemistry B 2014, 118, (35), p 10444–10459.
The impact of five different imidazolium-based ionic liquids (ILs) diluted in water on the properties of a bacterial plasma membrane is investigated using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Cations considered are 1-octyl-3-methylimidazolium (OMIM), 1-octyloxymethyl-3-methylimidazolium (OXMIM) and 1-tetradecyl-3-methylimidazolium (TDMIM) as well as the anions chloride and lactate. The atomistic model of the membrane bilayer is designed to reproduce the lipid composition of the plasma membrane of gram-negative Escherichia coli. Spontaneous insertion of cations into the membrane is observed in all ILs. Substantially more insertions of OMIM than of OXMIM occur and the presence of chloride reduces cation insertions compared to lactate. In contrast, anions do not adsorb onto the membrane surface nor diffuse into the bilayer. Once inserted, cations are oriented in parallel to membrane lipids with cation alkyl tails embedded into the hydrophobic membrane core, while the imidazolium-ring remains mostly exposed to the solvent. Such inserted cations are strongly associated with one to two phospholipids in the membrane. The overall order of lipids decreased after OMIM and OXMIM insertions, while on the contrary the order of lipids in the vicinity of TDMIM increased. The short alkyl tails of OMIM and OXMIM generate voids in the bilayer that are filled by curling lipids. This cation induced lipid disorder also reduces the average membrane thickness. This effect is not observed after TDMIM insertions due to the similar length of cation alkyl chain and the fatty acids of the lipids. This lipid-mimicking behavior of inserted TDMIM indicates a high membrane affinity of this cation that could lead to an enhanced accumulation of cations in the membrane over time. Overall, the simulations reveal how cations are inserted into the bacterial membrane and how such insertions change its properties. Moreover, the different roles of cations and anions are highlighted and the fundamental importance of cation alkyl chain length and its functionalization is demonstrated.
Financial support was from the Joint Council Office (JCO) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore.