Liquid but durable: Molecular dynamics simulations explain the unique properties of archaeal-like membranes
Archaeal plasma membranes appear to be extremely durable and almost impermeable to water and ions, in contrast to the membranes of Bacteria and Eucaryota. Additionally, they remain liquid within a temperature range of 0-100°C. These are the properties that have most likely determined the evolutionary fate of Archaea, and it may be possible for bionanotechnology to adopt these from nature. In this work, we use molecular dynamics simulations to assess at the atomistic level the structure and dynamics of a series of model archaeal membranes with lipids that have tetraether chemical nature and "branched" hydrophobic tails. We conclude that the branched structure defines dense packing and low water permeability of archaeal-like membranes, while at the same time ensuring a liquid-crystalline state, which is vital for living cells. This makes tetraether lipid systems promising in bionanotechnology and material science, namely for design of new and unique membrane nanosystems.