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Biophys J. 1999 Sep;77(3):1268-83.

An analysis of the size selectivity of solute partitioning, diffusion, and permeation across lipid bilayers.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 USA. samir@mit.edu

Abstract

The lipid bilayers of cell membranes are primarily responsible for the low passive transport of nonelectrolytes across cell membranes, and for the pronounced size selectivity of such transport. The size selectivity of bilayer permeation has been hypothesized to originate from the hindered transport of solutes across the ordered-chain region. In this paper, we develop a theoretical description that provides analytical relationships between the permeation properties of the ordered-chain region of the lipid bilayer (partition and diffusion coefficients) and its structural properties, namely, lipid chain density, free area, and order parameter. Emphasis is placed on calculating the size selectivity of solute partitioning, diffusion, and overall permeability across the ordered-chain region of the lipid bilayer. The size selectivity of solute partitioning is evaluated using scaled-particle theory, which calculates the reversible work required to create a cavity to incorporate a spherical solute into the ordered-chain region of the lipid bilayer. Scaled-particle theory is also used to calculate the work required to create a diffusion path for solutes in the interfacial region of the lipid bilayer. The predicted size dependence of the bilayer permeability is comparable to that observed experimentally. The dependence of solute partition and diffusion coefficients on the bilayer structural parameters is also discussed.

PMID:
10465741
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1300418
Free PMC Article
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