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Biochemistry. 1990 May 15;29(19):4582-92.

States of aggregation and phase transformations in mixtures of phosphatidylcholine and octyl glucoside.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel.


The result of mixing varying concentrations of the nonionic detergent octyl glucoside (OG) with small unilamellar vesicles (SUV) of egg phosphatidylcholine (PC) made by sonication depends on the ratio between OG and PC in the mixed aggregates. When this molar ratio (Re) is lower than 1.4, the detergent partitions between the PC vesicles and the aqueous medium with a partition coefficient of K = 0.033 mM-1. As a consequence of introduction of OG into the bilayers, the vesicles grow in size. The resultant vesicles have a mean diameter that is an increasing function of Re and is independent of the total PC concentration. Experiments in which the vesicles were loaded with high molecular weight dextran prior to being exposed to OG suggest that the mechanism responsible for the size growth involves lipid transfer rather than fusion. Mixtures with Re values within the range of 1.4-3.2 separate into two macroscopic phases: The lower phase is clear but very viscous. It contains constant OG and PC concentrations and is characterized by an Re value of 3.2, independent of the composition of the whole dispersion. The upper phase contains vesicles of varying concentrations of OG and PC, but a constant Re of 1.4. When the saturating level of 1.4 OG molecules per PC molecule is approached, the concentration of OG monomers in the aqueous medium reaches the value of 16.6 +/- 0.3 mM, which is the apparent cmc of OG in the lipid-containing medium. OG-PC mixed micelles contain at least 3.2 OG molecules per PC molecule. The mixed micelles present at Re = 3.2 apparently have the shape of oblate ellipsoids with a minor axis of about 2 nm and two major axes of about 25 nm. The surface area of the mixed micelles at this point is just sufficient for them to undergo conversion into the smallest possible spherical vesicles of a radius of 12 nm. At Re values above 3.2, the major axis of the mixed micelles becomes smaller as Re increases, while at values of Re below 3.2 the micelles would have been expected to grow very rapidly with decreasing Re. This may explain the partial vesicle closure occurring below Re = 3.2.

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