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    Since computing resources have advanced enough to allow routine molecular simulation studies of drug molecules interacting with biologically relevant membranes, a considerable amount of work has been carried out with fluid phospholipid systems. However, there is very little work in the literature on drug interactions with gel phase lipids. This poses a significant limitation for understanding permeation through the stratum corneum where the primary pathway is expected to be through a highly ordered lipid matrix. To address this point, we analyzed the interactions of p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and its ethyl (benzocaine) and butyl (butamben) esters with two membrane bilayers, which differ in their fluidity at ambient conditions. We considered a dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) bilayer in a fluid state and a ceramide 2 (CER2, ceramide NS) bilayer in a gel phase. We carried out unbiased (100 ns long) and biased z-constraint molecular dynamics simulations and calculated the free energy profiles of all molecules along the bilayer normal. The free energy profiles converged significantly slower for the gel phase. While the compounds have comparable affinities for both membranes, they exhibit penetration barriers almost 3 times higher in the gel phase CER2 bilayer. This elevated barrier and slower diffusion in the CER2 bilayer, which are caused by the high ordering of CER2 lipid chains, explain the low permeability of the gel phase membranes. We also compared the free energy profiles from MD simulations with those obtained from COSMOmic. This method provided the same trends in behavior for the guest molecules in both bilayers; however, the penetration barriers calculated by COSMOmic did not differ between membranes. In conclusion, we show how membrane fluid properties affect the interaction of drug-like molecules with membranes.


    Markéta Paloncýová, Russell H DeVane, Bruce P Murch, Karel Berka, Michal Otyepka. Rationalization of reduced penetration of drugs through ceramide gel phase membrane. Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids. 2014 Nov 25;30(46):13942-8

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    PMID: 25354090

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