Binding Mechanisms of Amyloid-like Peptides to Lipid Bilayers and Effects of Divalent Cations

Yanxing Yang, Sharareh Jalali, Bradley L. Nilsson, Cristiano L. Dias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In several neurodegenerative diseases, cell toxicity can emerge from damage produced by amyloid aggregates to lipid membranes. The details accounting for this damage are poorly understood including how individual amyloid peptides interact with phospholipid membranes before aggregation. Here, we use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the molecular mechanisms accounting for amyloid-membrane interactions and the role played by calcium ions in this interaction. Model peptides known to self-assemble into amyloid fibrils and bilayer made from zwitterionic and anionic lipids are used in this study. We find that both electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions contribute to peptide-bilayer binding. In particular, the attraction of peptides to lipid bilayers is dominated by electrostatic interactions between positive residues and negative phosphate moieties of lipid head groups. This attraction is stronger for anionic bilayers than for zwitterionic ones. Hydrophobicity drives the burial of nonpolar residues into the interior of the bilayer producing strong binding in our simulations. Moreover, we observe that the attraction of peptides to the bilayer is significantly reduced in the presence of calcium ions. This is due to the binding of calcium ions to negative phosphate moieties of lipid head groups, which leaves phospholipid bilayers with a net positive charge. Strong binding of the peptide to the membrane occurs less frequently in the presence of calcium ions and involves the formation of a "Ca2+ bridge".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2027-2035
Number of pages9
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid
  • amyloid-membrane binding
  • calcium
  • calcium-membrane binding
  • lipid membrane


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