Does isoprene protect plant membranes for thermal shock? A molecular dynamics study

M.E. Siwko, S.J. Marrink, A.H. de Vries, Kozubek Arkadiusz, A.J.M. Schoot Uiterkamp, A.E. Mark

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The question of why plants release isoprene when heat stressed has been continuously debated for more than half a century. In this work we use molecular dynamics simulation techniques to directly investigate the interaction between isoprene and a model phospholipid membrane in atomic detail. It is found that isoprene partitions preferentially in the center of the membrane and in a dose dependent manner enhances the order within the membrane without significantly changing the dynamical properties of the system. At a concentration of 20 mol% isoprene (16 isoprene molecules per 64 lipid molecules) the effect of the addition of isoprene on the membrane order is equivalent to a reduction in temperature of 10 K, rising to a reduction of 30 K at 43 mol% isoprene. The significance of the work is that it provides for the first time direct evidence that isoprene stabilizes lipid membranes and reduces the likelihood of a phospholipid membrane undergoing a heat induced phase transition. Furthermore it provides a clear mechanistic picture as to why plants specifically utilize isoprene for this purpose.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-206
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta-Biomembranes
Issue number2
Early online date4-Oct-2006
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2007


  • Thermotolerance
  • Temperature
  • Plant
  • Dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine
  • Simulation
  • Membrane
  • Molecular dynamic
  • Isoprene

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