We present a simple and computationally efficient coarse-grained and solvent-free model for simulating lipid bilayer membranes. In order to be used in concert with particle-based reaction-diffusion simulations, the model is purely based on interacting and reacting particles, each representing a coarse patch of a lipid monolayer. Particle interactions include nearest-neighbor bond-stretching and angle-bending and are parameterized so as to reproduce the local membrane mechanics given by the Helfrich energy density over a range of relevant curvatures. In-plane fluidity is implemented with Monte Carlo bond-flipping moves. The physical accuracy of the model is verified by five tests: (i) Power spectrum analysis of equilibrium thermal undulations is used to verify that the particle-based representation correctly captures the dynamics predicted by the continuum model of fluid membranes. (ii) It is verified that the input bending stiffness, against which the potential parameters are optimized, is accurately recovered. (iii) Isothermal area compressibility modulus of the membrane is calculated and is shown to be tunable to reproduce available values for different lipid bilayers, independent of the bending rigidity. (iv) Simulation of two-dimensional shear flow under a gravity force is employed to measure the effective in-plane viscosity of the membrane model and show the possibility of modeling membranes with specified viscosities. (v) Interaction of the bilayer membrane with a spherical nanoparticle is modeled as a test case for large membrane deformations and budding involved in cellular processes such as endocytosis. The results are shown to coincide well with the predicted behavior of continuum models, and the membrane model successfully mimics the expected budding behavior. We expect our model to be of high practical usability for ultra coarse-grained molecular dynamics or particle-based reaction-diffusion simulations of biological systems.

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