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Biophys J. 2010 May 19;98(10):L50-2. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.02.009.

Phospholipid monolayers probed by vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy: instability of unsaturated phospholipids.

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School of Chemistry, Division of Surface and Corrosion Science, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.


The surface specific technique vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy has been applied to in situ studies of the degradation of Langmuir monolayers of 1,2-diacyl-phosphocholines with various degrees of unsaturation in the aliphatic chains. To monitor the degradation of the phospholipids, the time-dependent change of the monolayer area at constant surface pressure and the sum frequency intensity of the vinyl CH stretch at the carbon-carbon double bonds were measured. The data show a rapid degradation of monolayers of phospholipids carrying unsaturated aliphatic chains compared to the stable lipids carrying fully saturated chains when exposed to the ambient laboratory air. In addition, the degradation of the phospholipids can be inhibited by purging the ambient air with nitrogen. This instability may be attributed to spontaneous degradation by oxidation mediated by various reactive species in the air. To further elucidate the process of lipid oxidation in biological membranes artificial Langmuir monolayers probed by a surface specific spectroscopic technique as in this study can serve as a model system for studying the degradation/oxidation of cell membrane constituents.

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