Molecular transport between organelles is predominantly governed by vesicle fission and fusion. Unlike experimental vesicles, the fused vesicles in molecular dynamics simulations do not become spherical readily, because the lipid and water distribution is inappropriate for the fused state and spontaneous amendment is slow. Here, we study the hypothesis that enhanced transport across the membrane of water, lipids, or both is required to produce spherical vesicles. This is done by adding several kinds of model proteins to fusing vesicles. The results show that equilibration of both water and lipid content is a requirement for spherical vesicles. In addition, the effect of these transmembrane proteins is studied in bilayers and vesicles, including investigations into hydrophobic matching and aggregation. Our simulations show that the level of aggregation does not only depend on hydrophobic mismatch, but also on protein shape. Additionally, one of the proteins promotes fusion by inducing pore formation. Incorporation of these proteins allows even flat membranes to fuse spontaneously. Moreover, we encountered a novel spontaneous vesicle enlargement mechanism we call the engulfing lobe, which may explain how lipids added to a vesicle solution are quickly incorporated into the inner monolayer.
- molecular dynamics simulations
- vesicle fusion
- lipid flip-flop
- fusion proteins