Exogenous polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are readily incorporated into the synthesis pathways of A. baumannii membrane phospholipids, where they contribute to reduced bacterial fitness and increased antimicrobial susceptibility. Here we examine the impact of PUFA membrane modification on membrane organisation and biophysical properties using coarse grained MARTINI simulations of chemically representative membrane models developed from mass-spectrometry datasets of an untreated, arachidonic acid (AA) treated and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) treated A. baumannii membranes. Enzymatic integration of AA or DHA into phospholipids of the A. baumannii membrane resulted in modulation of membrane biophysical properties. Membrane thickness decreased slightly following PUFA treatment, concomitant with changes in the lateral area per lipid of each lipid headgroup class. PUFA treatment resulted in a decrease in membrane ordering and an increase in lipid lateral diffusion. Changes in lateral membrane organisation were observed in the PUFA treated membranes, with a concurrent increase in ordered cardiolipin domains and disordered PUFA-containing domains. Notably, separation between ordered and disordered domains was enhanced and was more pronounced for DHA relative to AA, providing a possible mechanism for greater antimicrobial action of DHA relative to AA observed experimentally. Furthermore, the membrane active antimicrobial, pentamidine, preferentially adsorbs to cardiolipin domains of the A. baumannii model membranes. This interaction, and membrane penetration of pentamidine, was enhanced following PUFA treatment. Cumulatively, this work explores the wide-ranging effects of PUFA incorporation on the A. baumannii membrane and provides a molecular basis for bacterial inner membrane disruption by PUFAs.
- Acinetobacter baumannii
- Bacterial membranes
- Membrane biophysical properties
- Molecular dynamics
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids