Monitoring biological membrane-potential changes: a CI QM/MM study

C. Rusu, H. Lanig, O. Othersen, C. Kryschi, Tim Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent decades, new less-invasive, nonlinear optical methods have been proposed and optimized for monitoring fast physiological processes in biological cells. One of these methods allows the action potential (AP) in cardiomyocytes or neurons to be monitored by means of second-harmonic generation (SHG). We now present the first, to our knowledge, simulations of the dependency of the intensity of the second harmonic (I(SHG)) on variations of the transmembrane potential (TMP) in a cardiomyocyte during an action potential (AP). For this, an amphiphilic potential-sensitive styryl dye molecule with nonlinear optical properties was embedded in a dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) bilayer, replacing one of the phospholipid molecules. External electrical fields with different strengths were applied across the membrane to simulate the AP of a heart-muscle cell. We used a combined classical/quantum mechanical approach to model the structure and the spectroscopic properties of the embedded chromophore. Two 10 ns molecular dynamics (MD) simulations provided input geometries for semiempirical molecular orbital (QM/MM) single-point configuration interaction (CI) calculations, which were used to calculate the wavelengths and oscillator strengths of electronic transitions in the di-8-ANEPPS dye molecule. The results were then used in a sum-over-states treatment to calculate the second-order hyperpolarizability. The square of the hyperpolarizability scales with the intensity of the second harmonic, which is used to monitor the action potentials of cardiomyocytes experimentally. Thus, we computed changes in the intensity of the second harmonic (DeltaI(SHG)) as function of TMP changes. Our results agree well with experimental measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2445-2455
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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