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Ion transport through chemically induced pores in protein-free phospholipid membranes

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date29/11/2007
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Journal number47
Volume111
Number of pages4
Pages13379-13382
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

We address the possibility of being able to induce the trafficking of salt ions and other solutes across cell membranes without the use of specific protein-based transporters or pumps. On the basis of realistic atomic-scale molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that transmembrane ionic leakage can be initiated by chemical means, in this instance through addition of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a solvent widely used in cell biology. Our results provide compelling evidence that the small amphiphilic solute DMSO is able to induce transient defects (water pores) in membranes and to promote a subsequent diffusive pore-mediated transport of salt ions. The findings are consistent with available experimental data and offer a molecularlevel explanation for the experimentally observed activities of DMSO solvent as an efficient penetration enhancer and a cryoprotectant, as well as an analgesic. Our findings suggest that transient pore formation by chemical means could emerge as an important general principle for therapeutics.