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Langmuir. 2010 Jul 20;26(14):11670-9. doi: 10.1021/la101012a.

Self-assembled structures and pKa value of oleic acid in systems of biological relevance.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Graz, Heinrichstrasse 28, A-8010 Graz, Austria.


In the human digestion process, triglycerides are hydrolyzed by lipases to monoglycerides and the corresponding fatty acids. Here we report the self-assembly of structures in biologically relevant, emulsified oleic acid-monoolein mixtures at various pH values and oleic acid concentrations. Small-angle X-ray scattering, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, and dynamic light scattering were used to investigate the structures formed, and to follow their transitions while these factors were varied. The addition of oleic acid to monoolein-based cubosomes was found to increase the critical packing parameter in the system. Structural transitions from bicontinuous cubosomes through hexosomes and micellar cubosomes (Fd3m symmetry) to emulsified microemulsions occur with increasing oleic acid concentration. At sufficiently high oleic acid concentration, the internal particle structure was also found to strongly depend on the pH of the aqueous phase: transformations from emulsified microemulsion through micellar cubosomes, hexosomes, and bicontinuous cubosomes to vesicles can be observed as a function of increasing pH. The reversible transition from liquid crystals to vesicles occurs at intestinal pH values (between pH 7 and 8). The hydrodynamic radius of the particles decreases from around 120 nm for internally structured particles to around 60 nm for vesicles. All transitions with pH are reversible. Finally, the apparent pK(a) for oleic acid in monoolein could be determined from the change of structure with pH. This value is within the physiological pH range of the intestine and depends somewhat on composition.

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