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Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2014 Jan 23;7(2):136-68. doi: 10.3390/ph7020136.

Mercury-supported biomimetic membranes for the investigation of antimicrobial peptides.

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Department of Chemistry "Ugo Schiff", Florence University, Via della Lastruccia 3, Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze) 50019, Italy.
Retired professor from Florence University, Firenze 50121, Italy.


Tethered bilayer lipid membranes (tBLMs) consist of a lipid bilayer interposed between an aqueous solution and a hydrophilic "spacer" anchored to a gold or mercury electrode. There is great potential for application of these biomimetic membranes for the elucidation of structure-function relationships of membrane peptides and proteins. A drawback in the use of mercury-supported tBLMs with respect to gold-supported ones is represented by the difficulty in applying surface sensitive, spectroscopic and scanning probe microscopic techniques to gather information on the architecture of these biomimetic membranes. Nonetheless, mercury-supported tBLMs are definitely superior to gold-supported biomimetic membranes for the investigation of the function of membrane peptides and proteins, thanks to a fluidity and lipid lateral mobility comparable with those of bilayer lipid membranes interposed between two aqueous phases (BLMs), but with a much higher robustness and resistance to electric fields. The different features of mercury-supported tBLMs reconstituted with functionally active membrane proteins and peptides of bacteriological or pharmacological interest may be disclosed by a judicious choice of the most appropriate electrochemical techniques. We will describe the way in which electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, potential-step chronocoulometry, cyclic voltammetry and phase-sensitive AC voltammetry are conveniently employed to investigate the structure of mercury-supported tBLMs and the mode of interaction of antimicrobial peptides reconstituted into them.

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