Self-assembling cyclic peptides: Molecular dynamics studies of dimers in polar and nonpolar solvents
The self-assembly of cyclic D,L-alpha-peptides into hollow nanotubes is a crucial mechanistic step in their application as antibacterial and drug-delivery agents. To understand this process, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were performed on dimers of cyclic peptides formed from cyclo [(-L-Trp-D-N-MeLeu-)4-]2 and cyclo [(-L-Trp-D-Leu-)4-]2 subunits in nonpolar (nonane) and polar (water) solvent. The dimers were observed to be stable only in nonpolar solvent over the full 10 ns length of the MD trajectory. The behavior of the dimers in different solvents is rationalized in terms of the intersubunit hydrogen bonding, hydrogen bonding with the solvent, and planarity of the rings. It is shown that the phi and psi dihedral angles of a single uncapped ring in nonane lie in the beta-sheet region of the Ramachandran plot, and the ring stays in a flat conformation. Steered MD (SMD) simulations based on Jarzynski's equality were performed to obtain the potential of mean force as a function of the distance between the two rings of the capped dimer in nonane. It is also shown that a single peptide subunit prefers to reside close to the nonane/water interface rather than in bulk solvent because of the amphiphilic character of the peptide ring. The present MD results build the foundation for using MD simulations to study the mechanism of the formation of cyclic peptide nanotubes in lipid bilayers.