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Biophys J. Jul 1993; 65(1): 23–27.
PMCID: PMC1225696

Probability of alamethicin conductance states varies with nonlamellar tendency of bilayer phospholipids.


With few exceptions, membrane lipids are usually regarded as a kind of filler or passive solvent for membrane proteins. Yet, cells exquisitely control membrane composition. Many phospholipids found in plasma membrane bilayers favor packing into inverted hexagonal bulk phases. It was suggested that the strain of forcing such lipids into a bilayer may affect membrane protein function, such as the operation of transmembrane channels. To investigate this, we have inserted the peptide alamethicin into bilayer membranes composed of lipids of empirically determined inverted hexagonal phase "spontaneous radii" Ro, which will have expectably different degrees of strain when forced into bilayer form. We observe a correlation between measured Ro and the relative probabilities of different conductance states. States of higher conductance are more probable in dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine, the lipid of highest curvature, 1/Ro, than in dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, the lipid of lowest curvature.

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