Defining the transmembrane helix of M2 protein from influenza A by molecular dynamics simulations in a lipid bilayer

Biophys J. 1999 Apr;76(4):1886-96. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3495(99)77347-9.


Integral membrane proteins containing at least one transmembrane (TM) alpha-helix are believed to account for between 20% and 30% of most genomes. There are several algorithms that accurately predict the number and position of TM helices within a membrane protein sequence. However, these methods tend to disagree over the beginning and end residues of TM helices, posing problems for subsequent modeling and simulation studies. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations in an explicit lipid and water environment are used to help define the TM helix of the M2 protein from influenza A virus. Based on a comparison of the results of five different secondary structure prediction algorithms, three different helix lengths (an 18mer, a 26mer, and a 34mer) were simulated. Each simulation system contained 127 POPC molecules plus approximately 3500-4700 waters, giving a total of approximately 18,000-21,000 atoms. Two simulations, each of 2 ns duration, were run for the 18mer and 26mer, and five separate simulations were run for the 34mer, using different starting models generated by restrained in vacuo MD simulations. The total simulation time amounted to 11 ns. Analysis of the time-dependent secondary structure of the TM segments was used to define the regions that adopted a stable alpha-helical conformation throughout the simulation. This analysis indicates a core TM region of approximately 20 residues (from residue 22 to residue 43) that remained in an alpha-helical conformation. Analysis of atomic density profiles suggested that the 18mer helix revealed a local perturbation of the lipid bilayer. Polar side chains on either side of this region form relatively long-lived H-bonds to lipid headgroups and water molecules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Influenza A virus / chemistry*
  • Influenza A virus / genetics
  • Ion Channels / chemistry*
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Static Electricity
  • Thermodynamics
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Water / chemistry


  • Ion Channels
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • M-protein, influenza virus
  • M2 protein, Influenza A virus
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • Water