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Langmuir. 2012 Jul 24;28(29):10818-21. doi: 10.1021/la3019887. Epub 2012 Jul 12.

Asymmetric distribution of anionic phospholipids in supported lipid bilayers.

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Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Fakultät für Physik & CeNS, Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, 80539 Munich, Germany.


Lipid bilayers with a controlled content of anionic lipids are a prerequisite for the quantitative study of hydrophobic-electrostatic interactions of proteins with lipid bilayers. Here, the asymmetric distribution of zwitterionic and anionic lipids in supported lipid bilayers is studied by neutron reflectometry. We prepare POPC/POPS (3:1) unilamellar vesicles in a high-salt-concentration buffer. Initially, no fusion of the vesicles to a SiO(2) surface is observed over hours and days. Once the isotonic buffer is exchanged with hypotonic buffer, vesicle fusion and bilayer formation occur by osmotic shock. Neutron reflectivity on the bilayers formed this way reveals the presence of anionic lipids (d(31)-POPS) in the outer bilayer leaflet only, and no POPS is observed in the leaflet facing the SiO(2) substrate. We argue that this asymmetric distribution of POPS is induced by the electrostatic repulsion of the phosphatidylserines from the negatively charged hydroxy surface groups of the silicon block. Such bilayers with controlled and high contents of anionic lipids in the outer leaflet are versatile platforms for studying anionic lipid protein interactions that are key elements in signal transduction pathways in the cytoplasmic leaflet of eukaryotic cells.

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