1,2-Dipalmitoyl phosphoserine (DPPS) is one of the main components of cell membranes in the central nervous system. It could help explain the effectiveness of local anesthetics, such as benzocaine, which are believed to prevent pain signals from propagating to the central nervous system by blocking nerve cells’ sodium channels. The exact pain-blocking mechanism has not been proven.
J.J. Lopez Cascales and co-workers, Universidad Politecnica de Cartagena, Spain, have created a computer model that calculates the probability of benzocaine entering a cell’s membrane, based on the composition of the membrane. The model predicts that benzocaine can more easily insert into membranes with a large percentage of DPPS, a negatively charged phospholipid, than membranes mostly made of dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine, a neutral phospholipid.
Improved understanding of this mechanism will lead to safer and more effective anesthetics.
- Thermodynamic study of benzocaine insertion into different lipid bilayers
J.J. Lopez Cascales, S.D. Oliveira Costa, R.D. Porasso,
J. Chem. Phys. 2011, 135, 135103–10.