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Biophys J. 1995 Jun;68(6):2333-41.

Permeability of dimyristoyl phosphatidylcholine/dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine bilayer membranes with coexisting gel and liquid-crystalline phases.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22908, USA.


The passive permeation of glucose and a small zwitterionic molecule, methyl-phosphoethanolamine, across two-component phospholipid bilayers (dimyristoyl phosphatidylcholine (DMPC)/dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) mixtures) exhibit a maximum when gel domains and fluid domains coexist. The permeability data of the two-phase bilayers cannot be fitted to single-rate kinetics, but are consistent with a Gaussian distribution of rate constants. In pure DMPC and DPPC as well as in their mixtures, at the temperature of the maximum excess heat capacity, the logarithm of the average permeability rate constants are linearly correlated with the mole fraction of DPPC in the total system. In addition, in the 50:50 mixture, the excess heat capacity values as well as the apparent fractions of interfacial lipid correlate with the logarithm of the excess permeabilities in the two-phase region. These results suggest that small polar molecules can cross the membrane at the interface between gel and fluid domains at a much faster rate than through the homogeneous phases; the acyl chains located at the domain interface experience lateral density fluctuations that are inversely proportional to their average length, and large enough to allow rapid transmembrane diffusion of the solute molecules. The distribution of the permeability rate constants may reflect temporal and spatial fluctuations of the lipid composition at the phase boundaries.

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