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Biochemistry. 1995 Dec 26;34(51):16764-9.

Membrane thinning caused by magainin 2.

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  • 1Physics Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77251-1892, USA.


Magainin 2 is a 23-residue antibiotic peptide found in the skin of Xeonpus laevis (African clawed frog). It belongs to a broad class of alpha-helical peptides which interact directly with the lipid bilayer. Very little is presently known about the nature of this peptide/lipid interaction on the molecular level. We have performed a sequence of lamellar X-ray diffraction experiments to provide some insight into the nature of this interaction. We have found that, at concentrations below the critical concentration for lysis, the peptide causes the membrane thickness to decrease roughly in proportion to the peptide concentration. We further show that this thinning is consistent with a model where the peptide adsorbs within the headgroup region of the lipid bilayer at these concentrations. The energy cost of this thinning may also explain why the peptide inserts at high concentrations. We have already shown that a similar interaction exists for alamethicin interacting with diphytanoylphosphatidylcholine, and it should hold for a wide variety of peptide/lipid systems.

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