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Klin Wochenschr. 1990 Feb 1;68(3):149-65.

Mixed-chain phospholipids and interdigitated bilayer systems.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.


The lipid bilayer is a fundamental structural component for all biological membranes. The function of lipid bilayers may be considered not only to serve as a permeability barrier preventing the free flows of ions and polar molecules between the cell interior and its external environment, but also to modulate the activity of bilayer-spanning proteins or glycoproteins in biological membranes. Based on the location of the terminal methyl groups of the two hydrocarbon chains in phospholipids or glycosphingolipids, two broad categories of lipid bilayers have been recognized: (1) the noninterdigitated and (2) the interdigitated bilayers. Depending on the chain-length difference between the two hydrocarbon chains, three different types of packing models for interdigitated bilayer systems have been identified. Among the three types, the mixed interdigitated bilayer is perhaps unique, since the hydrocarbon chains in the bilayer core are observed to be interdigitated in both the gel and the liquid-crystalline states. In this communication, various experimental data supporting the chain packing characteristics of the mixed interdigitated bilayer for a large number of mixed-chain phospholipid species are considered. In addition, two types of phase diagrams for binary phospholipid mixtures obtained with mixed-chain phospholipids are also presented. These studies may be of great importance in understanding the functional control of bilayer-spanning proteins in biological membranes, and for providing basic information explaining the dynamic regulation of membrane activities in general.

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