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Functional group dependence of solute partitioning to various locations within a DOPC bilayer: A comparison of molecular dynamics simulations with experiment



Atomic-level molecular dynamics simulations of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) bilayers containing small, amphiphilic, drug-like molecules were carried out to examine the influence of polar functionality on membrane partitioning and transport. Three related molecules (tyramine, phenethylamine, and 4-ethylphenol) were chosen to allow a detailed study of the isolated effects of the amine and hydroxyl functionalities on the preferred solute location, free energies of transfer, and the effect of combining both functional groups in a same molecule. Transfer free energy profiles (from water) generated from molecular dynamics (MD) simulations as a function of bilayer depth compared favorably to comparable experimental results. The simulations allowed the determination of the location of the barrier domain for permeability where the transfer free energy is highest and the preferred binding region at which the free energy is a minimum for each of the three solutes. Comparisons of the free energy profiles reveal that the hydrocarbon chain interior is the region most selective to chemical structure of different solutes because the free energies of transfer in that region vary to a significantly greater extent than in other regions of the bilayer. The contributions of the hydroxyl and amino groups to the free energies of solute transfer from water to the interfacial region were close to zero in both the MD simulations and experimental measurements. This suggests that the free energy decrease observed for solute transfer into the head group region occurs with minimal loss in solvation by hydrogen bonding to polar functional groups on the solute and is largely driven by hydrophobicity. Overall, the joint experimental and simulation studies suggest that the assumption of additivity of free energy contributions from multiple polar functional groups on the same molecule may hold for predictions of passive bilayer permeability coefficients providing that the groups are well isolated. However, this assumption does not hold for predictions of relative liposome-binding affinities. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc. and the American Pharmacists Association J Pharm Sci 100:2136–2146, 2011