Effect of monoglycerides and fatty acids on a ceramide bilayer†
Monoglycerides and unsaturated fatty acids, naturally present in trace amounts in the stratum corneum (top layer of skin) lipid matrix, are commonly used in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and health care formulations. However, a detailed molecular understanding of how the oil additives get incorporated into the skin lipids from topical application and, once incorporated, how they affect the properties and integrity of the lipid matrix remains unexplored. Using ceramide 2 bilayers as skin lipid surrogates, we use a series of molecular dynamics simulations with six different natural oil ingredients at multiple concentrations to investigate the effect of the oils on the properties and stability of the bilayers. The six oils: monoolein, monostearin, monoelaidin, oleic acid, stearic acid and linoleic acid – all having the same length of the alkyl chain, C18, but a varying degree of saturation, allow us to systematically address the effect of unsaturation in the additives. Our results show that at low oil concentration (∼5%) the mixed bilayers containing any of the oils and ceramide 2 (CER2) become more rigid than pure CER2 bilayers due to more efficient lipid packing. Better packing also results in the formation of larger numbers of hydrogen bonds between the lipids, which occurs at the expense of the hydrogen bonds between lipids and water. The mixed bilayers with saturated or trans-unsaturated oils remain stable over the whole range of oil concentration. In contrast, the presence of the oils with at least one cis-double bond leads to bilayer instability and complete loss of bilayer structure at the oil content of about 50–65%. Two cis-double bonds in the lipid tail induce bilayer disruption at even lower concentration (∼30%). The mixed bilayers remain in the gel phase (without melting to a fluid phase) until the phase transition to a non-bilayer phase occurs. We also demonstrate that the stability of the bilayer strongly correlates with the order parameter of the lipid tails.