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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1976 Apr 16;433(1):118-32.

Outer membrane of Salmonella typhimurium. Transmembrane diffusion of some hydrophobic substances.


The outer membrane, which is composed of lipopolysaccharide, phospholipids, and proteins, is a layer of the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria, and apparently acts as a penetration barrier for various substances. It had been shown by other workers that "deep rough" mutants of Salmonella typhimurium, whose lipopolysaccharides lack most of the saccharide chains, were much more sensitive than the wild type strain to certain antibiotics and dyes, but not to others. We found that the former group of agents are usually hydrophobic and the latter group mostly hydrophilic. All hydrophilic antibiotics had molecular weights lower than 650, and one of them was shown to diffuse through the outer membrane of 0 degrees C. In contrast, some hydrophobic antibiotics had molecular weights in excess of 1200, and the rate of diffusion of one of them was shown to be extremely dependent both on temperature and on the structure of lipopolysaccharide present. These data and results presented elsewhere suggest, but do not necessarily prove, that most hydrophilic antibiotics diffuse through aqueous pores, whereas hydrophobic antibiotics and dyes mainly penetrate by dissolving into the hydrocarbon interior of the out membrane. In contrast to the outer membrane of deep rough mutants, that of the wild type strain and less defective rough mutants was unusual among biological membranes in that it was practically impermeable to hydrophiobic agents. It is proposed that the difference in hydrophobic permeability between the two types of strains is due to radical differences in the organization of the outer membrane, more specifically to the presence or absence of exposed phospholipid bilayer regions.

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