A Monte Carlo study of the self-assembly of bacteriorhodopsin

Kamakshi Jagannathan, Rakwoo Chang, Arun Yethiraj

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11 Scopus citations


Bacteriorhodopsin (BR) and specific lipid molecules self-assemble into a quasi two-dimensional lattice structure known as the purple membrane (PM). In the PM, BR molecules exist in a trimeric form with lipid molecules present in the space enclosed by each trimeric unit and in the inter-trimer space. These trimeric units, which have a roughly circular cross-section, are arranged in hexagonal patterns with long-ranged crystalline order. In this work, we investigate the self-assembly of BR in the PM via Monte Carlo simulations of a two-dimensional model of the membrane and proteins. The protein molecules are modeled as 120° sectors of a circle and the lipid molecules enter into the model through effective protein-protein interactions. The sectors cannot overlap with each other, and in addition to this excluded volume interaction there are site-site attractive interactions between specific points of the proteins to mimic interactions between helices on the proteins and lipid-induced interactions. At low values of the attractive well depth, the proteins are found in the monomeric form at all concentrations. At moderate and high values of the attractive well depth, trimers are formed as the concentration increases, and with a further increase in concentration the trimers organize into a hexagonal lattice. The interactions between the proteins and those induced by the intra-trimer lipids play an equally important role in the formation of trimers and the lattice. The lipids in the inter-trimer space cause the trimers to orient in a specific direction in the hexagonal crystal lattice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1902-1916
Number of pages15
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2002


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