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Biophys J. 1976 May;16(5):481-9.

Formation of planar bilayer membranes from lipid monolayers. A critique.


The formation of planar bilayer membranes from lipid monolayers as described by Montal and Mueller (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1972. 69:3561) is analyzed. Bilayers absolutely free of alkane solvents or other nonpolar hydrocarbons can be formed on polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) (e.g. Teflon) septa only if certain boundary conditions are satisfied. Measurements have been made of the contact angles between monolayer-coated water and PTFE in the presence and absence of alkane solvents. The measurement suggest that the boundary conditions for formation of stable bilayers can be satisfied only when a nonpolar solvent is present. We conclude that the bilayer must be surrounded by a torus of alkane solvent, petroleum jelly, or silicone grease depending upon the details of technique used to form the bilayer. The non-polar solvent used in the formation of the bilayer may or may not be present in the bilayer depending upon the water solubility and size of the solvent molecule relative to the size of the alkyl chain of the lipid. Detailed sketches describing the formation of bilayers from monolayers are presented.

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