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Chem Phys Lipids. 1991 Mar;57(2-3):147-64.

Nonbilayer phases of membrane lipids.

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Department of Physics, Princeton University, NJ 08544.


Numerous liquid crystalline biomembrane lipids are known to exhibit non-lamellar phases characterized by curvature of their component lipid monolayers. An understanding of the phase stability of these systems begins with analysis of the energy of bending the monolayers, the interactions which lead to the bending energy, and the geometrical constraints which lead to competing energy terms which arise when the monolayers are bent and packed onto lattices with different structures. Diffraction and other techniques suitable for probing lipid phase structure are described. A phenomenological model is reviewed which successfully explains many of the qualitative features of lipid mesomorphic phase behavior. A key result of this model is that lipid bilayer compositions which are close to the non-lamellar phase boundaries of their phase diagrams are characterized by a frustrated elastic stress which may modulate the activity of imbedded membrane proteins and which may provide a rationale for the prevalence of non-lamellar-tending lipid species in biomembrane bilayers. Areas in need of future research are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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