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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1975 Apr 21;389(1):20-33.

The permeation of organic acids through lecithin bilayers. Resemblance to diffusion in polymers.


1. The fluxes of aliphatic acids and their derivatives through black lipid membranes made of egg lecithin in decane were measured by means of a proton titration method. 2. Permeability coefficients were calculated and these were divided by the partition coefficient of the diffusing solute in different solvent systems: n-decane, olive oil, ether and octanol. The logarithms of the diffusion coefficients thus obtained were plotted against the logarithm of the molecular weight. The data could not be fitted to a single regression line in any solvent system. 3. When the logarithm of the diffusion coefficients were correlated to the logarithm of the molecular volume (equals molecular weight/ specific gravity) all the diffusants could be fitted to the same regression line, indicating that the molecular volume is a better index of molecular size and shape than the molecular weight. 4. Analysis of the experimental results assuming a model of diffusion through soft polymers (Lieb, W.R. and Stein, W. D. (1971) Current Topics in Membranes and Transport, vol. 2, pp. 1-39, Academic Press, New York) showed that decane and olive oil are not adequate model solvents for planar lecithin membranes but ether and octanol are good models. 5. The differential mass selectivity coefficient was found to be similar to that for soft polymers and biological membranes, i.e. greater than 3.0. 6. Water could be fitted by the same regression line, thus emphasizing the generality of passive transfer and implying that water crosses lipid membranes as single molecules.

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