Accurate Simulations of Lipid Monolayers Require a Water Model With Correct Surface Tension



Lipid monolayers provide our lungs and eyes their functionality, and serve as proxy systems in biomembrane research. Therefore, lipid monolayers have been studied intensively also using molecular dynamics simulations, which are able to probe their lateral structure and interactions with, e.g., pharmaceuticals or nanoparticles. However, such simulations have struggled in describing the forces at the air–water interface. Particularly the surface tension of water and long-range van der Waals interactions have been considered critical, but their importance in monolayer simulations has been evaluated only separately. Here we combine the recent C36/LJ-PME lipid force field that in- cludes long-range van der Waals forces with water models that reproduce experimental surface tensions to elucidate the importance of these contributions in monolayer simulations. Our results suggest that a water model with correct surface tension is necessary to reproduce experimental surface pressure–area isotherms and monolayer phase behavior, while standard cutoff-based CHARMM36 lipid model with the 4-point OPC water model still provides the best agreement with experiments. Our results emphasize the importance of using high quality water models in applications and parameter development in molecular dynamics simulations of biomolecules.