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Laurdan and Di-4-ANEPPDHQ Influence the Properties of Lipid Membranes: A Classical Molecular Dynamics and Fluorescence Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Accepted/In press2020

King's Authors


Environmentally sensitive (ES) dyes have been used for many decades to study the lipid order of cell membranes, as different lipid phases play a crucial role in a wide variety of cell processes. Yet, the understanding of how ES dyes behave, interact, and affect membranes at the atomistic scale is lacking, partially due to the lack of molecular dynamics (MD) models of these dyes. Here, we present ground- and excited-state MD models of commonly used ES dyes, Laurdan and di-4-ANEPPDHQ, and use MD simulations to study the behavior of these dyes in a disordered and an ordered membrane. We also investigate the effect that these two dyes have on the hydration and lipid order of the membranes, where we see a significant effect on the hydration of lipids proximal to the dyes. These findings are combined with experimental fluorescence experiments of ordered and disordered vesicles and live HeLa cells stained by the aforementioned dyes, where the generalized polarization (GP) values were measured at different concentrations of the dyes. We observe a small but significant decrease of GP at higher Laurdan concentrations in vesicles, while the same effect is not observed in cell membranes. The opposite effect is observed with di-4-ANEPPDHQ where no significant change in GP is seen for vesicles but a very substantial and significant decrease is seen in cell membranes. Together, our results show the profound effect that ES dyes have on membranes, and the presented MD models will be important for further understanding of these effects.

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