Mechanical Responses of a Single Myelin Layer: A Molecular Simulation Study

F Maliha and A Adnan, BIOMOLECULES, 13, 1525 (2023).

DOI: 10.3390/biom13101525

The myelin sheath provides insulation to the brain's neuron cells, which aids in signal transmission and communication with the body. Degenerated myelin hampers the connection between the glial cells, which are the front row responders during traumatic brain injury mitigation. Thus, the structural integrity of the myelin layer is critical for protecting the brain tissue from traumatic injury. At the molecular level, myelin consists of a lipid bilayer, myelin basic proteins (MBP), proteolipid proteins (PLP), water and ions. Structurally, the myelin sheath is formed by repeatedly wrapping forty or more myelin layers around an axon. Here, we have used molecular dynamic simulations to model and capture the tensile response of a single myelin layer. An openly available molecular dynamic solver, LAMMPS, was used to conduct the simulations. The interatomic potentials for the interacting atoms and molecules were defined using CHARMM force fields. Following a standard equilibration process, the molecular model was stretched uniaxially at a deformation rate of 5 angstrom/ps. We observed that, at around 10% applied strain, the myelin started to cohesively fail via flaw formation inside the bilayers. Further stretching led to a continued expansion of the defect inside the bilayer, both radially and transversely. This study provides the cellular-level mechanisms of myelin damage due to mechanical load.

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