The Effect of Chain Rigidity on Pore Formation by Peptide Action in Model Polymeric Bilayers
A common strategy employed to destroy harmful bacteria is to disrupt the bacterial membrane through the action of pore-forming anti-microbial peptides. The manner in which the peptides arrange themselves spatially to form a pore in the membrane, which is important for understanding both the mechanism of pore formation and pore function, is a topic of current debate. We contrast the response of a model membrane bilayer to the presence of solid, cylindrical nanoparticle insertions, when the bilayer is composed of persistent worm-like chains and when it is composed of flexible Gaussian chains. We use self-consistent field theory, with the appropriate single-chain propagator, to describe the amphiphilic star-like triblock copolymers composing the membrane and the solvent. The nanoparticle surfaces are designed to have patches that prefer either the solvent or the tail groups of the copolymers, and the nanoparticles are fixed in space. Using this model with polymers in the lamellar phase, we investigate the question of pore-formation, nanoparticle insertion and hydrophobic mismatch in lipid bilayers and the effect that chain rigidity has on these particular interactions. We find that the main effect of increased chain rigidity is that it increases the free energy scaling and the significance of the energy barriers associated with these pore-forming processes. These results demonstrate the importance of using a more realistic persistent chain when modelling pore formation.