Synthetic ion channels via self-assembly: a route for embedding porous polyoxometalate nanocapsules in lipid bilayer membranes
Porous polyoxometalate nanocapsules of Keplerate type are known to exhibit the functionality of biological ion channels; however, their use as an artificial ion channel is tempered by the high negative charge of the capsules, which renders their spontaneous incorporation into a lipid bilayer membrane unlikely. In this Letter we report coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations that demonstrate a route for embedding negatively charged nanocapsules into lipid bilayer membranes via self-assembly. A homogeneous mixture of water, cationic detergent, and phospholipid was observed to spontaneously self-assemble around the nanocapsule into a layered, liposome-like structure, where the nanocapsule was enveloped by a layer of cationic detergent followed by a layer of phospholipid. Fusion of such a layered liposome with a lipid bilayer membrane was observed to embed the nanocapsule into the lipid bilayer. The resulting assembly was found to remain stable even after the surface of the capsule was exposed to electrolyte. In the latter conformation, water was observed to flow into and out of the capsule as Na(+) cations entered, suggesting that a polyoxometalate nanocapsule can form a functional synthetic ion channel in a lipid bilayer membrane.