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J Membr Biol. 2011 Jan;239(1-2):5-14. doi: 10.1007/s00232-010-9321-y. Epub 2010 Dec 8.

Membrane partitioning: "classical" and "nonclassical" hydrophobic effects.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-4560, USA.


The free energy of transfer of nonpolar solutes from water to lipid bilayers is often dominated by a large negative enthalpy rather than the large positive entropy expected from the hydrophobic effect. This common observation has led to the idea that membrane partitioning is driven by the "nonclassical" hydrophobic effect. We examined this phenomenon by characterizing the partitioning of the well-studied peptide melittin using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and circular dichroism (CD). We studied the temperature dependence of the entropic (-TΔS) and enthalpic (ΔH) components of free energy (ΔG) of partitioning of melittin into lipid membranes made of various mixtures of zwitterionic and anionic lipids. We found significant variations of the entropic and enthalpic components with temperature, lipid composition and vesicle size but only small changes in ΔG (entropy-enthalpy compensation). The heat capacity associated with partitioning had a large negative value of about -0.5 kcal mol(-1) K(-1). This hallmark of the hydrophobic effect was found to be independent of lipid composition. The measured heat capacity values were used to calculate the hydrophobic-effect free energy ΔG (hΦ), which we found to dominate melittin partitioning regardless of lipid composition. In the case of anionic membranes, additional free energy comes from coulombic attraction, which is characterized by a small effective peptide charge due to the lack of additivity of hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions in membrane interfaces [Ladokhin and White J Mol Biol 309:543-552, 2001]. Our results suggest that there is no need for a special effect-the nonclassical hydrophobic effect-to describe partitioning into lipid bilayers.

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