Protegrin peptides are potent antimicrobial agents believed to act against a variety of pathogens by forming nonselective transmembrane pores in the bacterial cell membrane. We have employed 3D Poisson-Nernst-Planck (PNP) calculations to determine the steady-state ion conduction characteristics of such pores at applied voltages in the range of -100 to +100 mV in 0.1 M KCl bath solutions. We have tested a variety of pore structures extracted from molecular dynamics (MD) simulations based on an experimentally proposed octomeric pore structure. The computed single-channel conductance values were in the range of 290-680 pS. Better agreement with the experimental range of 40-360 pS was obtained using structures from the last 40 ns of the MD simulation, where conductance values range from 280 to 430 pS. We observed no significant variation of the conductance with applied voltage in any of the structures that we tested, suggesting that the voltage dependence observed experimentally is a result of voltage-dependent channel formation rather than an inherent feature of the open pore structure. We have found the pore to be highly selective for anions, with anionic to cationic current ratios (ICl-/IK+) on the order of 103. This is consistent with the highly cationic nature of the pore but surprisingly in disagreement with the experimental finding of only slight anionic selectivity. We have additionally tested the sensitivity of our PNP model to several parameters and found the ion diffusion coefficients to have a significant influence on conductance characteristics. The best agreement with experimental data was obtained using a diffusion coefficient for each ion set to 10% of the bulk literature value everywhere inside the channel, a scaling used by several other studies employing PNP calculations. Overall, this work presents a useful link between previous work focused on the structure of protegrin pores and experimental efforts aimed at investigating their conductance characteristics.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Computational support from the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Dr. Allison Langham for useful discussions, and Professors Mei Hong, Alan Waring and Robert Lehrer for providing us with the NMR model of the protegrin pore and for useful discussions.