On the interaction of hyaluronic acid with synovial fluid lipid membranes†
All-atom molecular dynamics simulations have been used to investigate the adsorption of low molecular weight hyaluronic acid to lipid membranes. We have determined the interactions that govern the adsorption of three different molecular weight hyaluronic acid molecules (0.4, 3.8 & 15.2 kDa) to lipid bilayers that are representative of the surface-active phospholipid bilayers found in synovial joints. We have found that both direct hydrogen bonds and water-mediated interactions with the lipid headgroups play a key role in the binding of hyaluronic acid to the lipid bilayer. The water-mediated interactions become increasingly important in stabilising the adsorbed hyaluronic acid molecules as the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid increases. We also observe a redistribution of ions around bound hyaluronic acid molecules and the associated lipid headgroups, and that the degree of redistribution increases with the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid. By comparing this behaviour to that observed in simulations of the charge-neutral polysaccharide dextran (MW ∼ 15 kDa), we show that this charge redistribution leads to an increased alignment of the lipid headgroups with the membrane normal, and therefore to more direct and water-mediated interactions between hyaluronic acid and the lipid membrane. These findings provide a detailed understanding of the general structure of hyaluronic acid–lipid complexes that have recently been presented experimentally, as well as a potential mechanism for their enhanced tribological properties.