Detailed atomistic computer simulations are now widely used to study biological membranes, including increasingly mixed lipid systems that involve, for example, cholesterol, which is a key membrane lipid. Typically, simulations of these systems start from a preassembled bilayer because the timescale on which self-assembly occurs in mixed lipid systems is beyond the practical abilities of fully atomistic simulations. To overcome this limitation and study bilayer self-assembly, coarse-grained models have been developed. Although there are several coarse-grained models for cholesterol reported in the literature, these generally fail to account explicitly for the unique molecular features of cholesterol that relate to its function and role as a membrane lipid. In this work, we propose a new coarse-grained model for cholesterol that retains the molecule's unique features and, as a result, can be used to study crystalline structures of cholesterol. In the development of the model, two levels of coarse-graining are explored and the importance of retaining key molecular features in the coarse-grained model that are relevant to structural properties is investigated.
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