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Biochemistry. 1999 Aug 17;38(33):10758-67.

Lipopolysaccharide bilayer structure: effect of chemotype, core mutations, divalent cations, and temperature.

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Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the primary lipid on the surface of Gram-negative bacteria, is thought to act as a protective and permeability barrier. X-ray diffraction analysis of osmotically stressed LPS multilayers was used to determine the structure and interactive properties of LPSs from strains containing the minimum number of sugars necessary for bacterial survival (Re chemotype) to the maximum number of sugars found in rough bacteria (Ra chemotype). At 20 degrees C in the absence of divalent cations, LPS suspensions gave a sharp wide-angle reflection at 4.23 A and a broad low-angle band centered at 50-68 A depending on the chemotype, indicating the presence of gel phase bilayers separated by large fluid spaces. As osmotic pressure was applied, the apposing bilayers were squeezed together and lamellar diffraction at 6 A resolution was obtained. At low applied pressures (<10(6) dyn/cm2), the total repulsive pressure between bilayers could be explained by electrostatic double layer theory. At higher applied pressures, there was a sharp upward break in each pressure-distance relation, indicating the presence of a hydrophilic steric barrier whose range depended strongly on the LPS chemotype. The positions of these upward breaks, along with electron density profiles, showed that the sugar core width systematically increased from 10 A for the Re chemotype to 27 A for the Ra chemotype. In excess buffer, the addition of divalent cations brought the bilayers into steric contact. Electron density profiles were used to determine the locations of cation binding sites and polar substituents on the LPS oligosaccharide core. The area per hydrocarbon chain was approximately 26 A2 in liquid-crystalline LPS bilayers, an indication of an acyl chain packing that is much tighter than that found in bilayers composed of typical membrane lipids. This unusually tight packing could be a critical factor in the permeability barrier provided by LPS.

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