Distribution and diffusivity of a hydrophobic probe molecule in the interior of a membrane: theory and simulation.


We propose a simple model for the distribution of position and orientation and the diffusion of a hydrophobic probe molecule embedded in a membrane. The molecule experiences both a Maier-Saupe orienting potential as well as an enclosing potential of repulsion from the membrane walls. A statistical thermodynamics treatment of the model provides predictions of the location and orientation of the molecule within the membrane. In particular, we evaluate the order parameter of the molecule in terms of the model constants. The diffusivity of the probe is studied by Brownian dynamics simulation. For rotational diffusion, we check an available analytical approximate treatment that allows for the prediction of the dynamics in terms of equilibrium quantities. We also pay attention to quantities related to the initial and mean reorientational rate of the probe. For translational diffusion, we use the simulation results to analyze some general aspects of lateral and transversal diffusion.

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