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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1985 Oct;82(19):6532-6.

Molecular packing and area compressibility of lipid bilayers.


Knowledge of the molecular packing of lipids and water in lipid bilayers is important for understanding bilayer mechanics and thermodynamics. Information on packing is most often obtained from x-ray or neutron diffraction measurements. Given the d spacing, composition, and partial specific volumes of the lipid and water, it is a simple matter to calculate the area per lipid molecule, bilayer thickness, and bilayer mass density. The partial specific volumes are commonly assumed to be those of bulk water and of lipid in excess water regardless of the degree of bilayer hydration. We present evidence here that these assumptions should be seriously questioned. At low hydrations, we find the head groups of egg and dioleoyl lecithin to be much less tightly packed than previously thought and the partial specific volume of water to be considerably smaller than 1 ml/g. Because the molecular packing affects the mechanical properties of bilayers, we use the results to reevaluate published experiments concerning the elastic area compressibility modulus of egg lecithin bilayers and the repulsive hydration force between bilayers.

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