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Eur Biophys J. 1999;28(7):583-90.

Probing the stability of S-layer-supported planar lipid membranes.

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Center for Ultrastructure Research and Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Molecular Nanotechnology, Universität für Bodenkultur Wien, Gregor-Mendel-Strasse 33, A-1180 Vienna, Austria.


Isolated protein subunits of the crystalline bacterial cell surface layer (S-layer) of Bacillus coagulans E38-66 have been recrystallized on one side of planar black lipid membranes (BLMs) and their influence on the electrical properties, rupture kinetics and mechanical stability of the BLM was investigated. The effect on the boundary potential, the capacitance or the conductance of the membrane was negligible whereas the mechanical properties were considerably changed. The mechanical stability was characterized by applying voltage pulses or ramps to induce irreversible rupture. The amplitude of the voltage pulse leading to rupture allows conclusions on the ability of membranes to resist external forces. Surprisingly, these amplitudes were significantly lower for composite S-layer/lipid membranes compared to undecorated BLMs. In contrast, the delay time between the voltage pulse and the appearance of the initial defect was found to be drastically longer for the S-layer-supported lipid bilayer. Furthermore, the kinetics of the rupture process was recorded. Undecorated membranes show a fast linear increase of the pore conductance in time, indicating an inertia-limited defect growth. The attachment of an S-layer causes a slow exponential increase in the conductance during rupture, indicating a viscosity-determined widening of the pore. In addition, the mechanical properties on a longer time scale were investigated by applying a hydrostatic pressure across the BLMs. This causes the BLM to bulge, as monitored by an increase in capacitance. Compared to undecorated BLMs, a significantly higher pressure gradient has to be applied on the S-layer face of the composite BLMs to observe any change in capacitance.

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