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J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1989 Feb;21(1):77-91.

Phase transitions and permeability changes in dry membranes during rehydration.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of California, Davis 95616.


Dry phospholipid bilayers are known to undergo transient changes in permeability during rehydration. In this review, we present evidence from which we suggest that this permeability change is due to a gel to liquid-crystalline phase transition accompanying rehydration. If the transition is avoided, as in lipids that remain in gel phase whether dry or rehydrated, the problem of leakage during rehydration is obviated, at least in part. Further, the evidence that the transition temperature for dry bilayers can be depressed by certain sugars is discussed. Finally, we show that these principles can be extended to intact cells. Using pollen grains as a model, we have measured the transition temperature for membrane phospholipids and show that the transition is correlated with physiological measurements including permeability changes and subsequent germination. From the Tm values taken from pollen grains at different water contents, we have constructed a phase diagram for the intact pollen that has high predictive value for physiological properties.

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