How do lipid molecules in membranes perform a flip-flop? The flip-flops of lipid molecules play a crucial role in the formation and flexibility of membranes. However, little has been determined about the behavior of flip-flops, either experimentally, or in molecular dynamics simulations. Here, we provide numerical results of the flip-flops of model lipid molecules in a model membrane and investigate the statistical properties, using millisecond-order coarse-grained molecular simulations (dissipative particle dynamics). We find that there are three different ways of flip-flops, which can be clearly characterized by their paths on the free energy surface. Furthermore, we found that the probability of the number of the flip-flops is well fitted by the Poisson distribution, and the probability density function for the inter-occurrence times of flip-flops coincides with that of the forward recurrence times. These results indicate that the occurrence of flip-flops is a Poisson process, which will play an important role in the flexibilities of membranes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry