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Gas permeation through AQP1

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Every morning, many people drive to work, while others may bike, take the bus or the metro. Similarly, various biomolecules in the human body also reach their destinations in diverse manners. For example, to cross the cellular membrane, small hydrophobic gas molecules diffuse through the lipid bilayer, while water molecules pass through specialized channel proteins named aquaporins (AQPs). Interestingly, just like one may get to work both by bus and by driving, it has been found recently that some gas molecules may have more than one way to cross the membrane, i.e., besides diffusion through lipids, oxygen and carbon dioxide may also pass through AQPs. However, the pathways that these gas molecules take remained elusive. Using molecular dynamics performed with NAMD, researchers have investigated the gas permeability of AQP1 in a recent study with two complementary methods (explicit gas diffusion simulation and implicit ligand sampling). The simulation results suggest that while the four monomeric pores of AQP1 function as water channels, the central pore of AQP1 may serve as a pathway for gas molecules to cross the membrane. More information on the simulations can be found on the aquaporin web page.