A Coarse-Grained Model of Stratum Corneum Lipids: Free Fatty Acids and Ceramide NS

Timothy C. Moore, Christopher R. Iacovella, Remco Hartkamp, Annette L. Bunge, Clare McCabe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Ceramide (CER)-based biological membranes are used both experimentally and in simulations as simplified model systems of the skin barrier. Molecular dynamics studies have generally focused on simulating preassembled structures using atomistically detailed models of CERs, which limit the system sizes and time scales that can practically be probed, rendering them ineffective for studying particular phenomena, including self-assembly into bilayer and lamellar superstructures. Here, we report on the development of a coarse-grained (CG) model for CER NS, the most abundant CER in human stratum corneum. Multistate iterative Boltzmann inversion is used to derive the intermolecular pair potentials, resulting in a force field that is applicable over a range of state points and suitable for studying ceramide self-assembly. The chosen CG mapping, which includes explicit interaction sites for hydroxyl groups, captures the directional nature of hydrogen bonding and allows for accurate predictions of several key structural properties of CER NS bilayers. Simulated wetting experiments allow the hydrophobicity of CG beads to be accurately tuned to match atomistic wetting behavior, which affects the whole system, since inaccurate hydrophobic character is found to unphysically alter the lipid packing in hydrated lamellar states. We find that CER NS can self-assemble into multilamellar structures, enabling the study of lipid systems more representative of the multilamellar lipid structures present in the skin barrier. The coarse-grained force field derived herein represents an important step in using molecular dynamics to study the human skin barrier, which gives a resolution not available through experiment alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9944-9958
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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