The free energy profile of pore formation in a lipid membrane, covering the entire range from a density fluctuation in an intact bilayer to a large tension-stabilized pore, has been calculated by molecular dynamics simulations with a coarse-grained lipid model. Several fixed elongations are used to obtain the Helmholtz free energy as a function of pore size for thermodynamically stable, metastable, and unstable pores, and the system-size dependence of these elongations is discussed. A link to the Gibbs free energy at constant tension, commonly known as the Litster model, is established by a Legendre transformation. The change of genus upon pore formation is exploited to estimate the saddle-splay modulus or Gaussian curvature modulus of the membrane leaflets. Details are provided of the simulation approach, which combines the potential of mean constraint force method with a reaction coordinate based on the local lipid density.
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