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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1997 Jul 5;1327(1):131-47.

Phosphatidylcholine-fatty acid membranes: effects of headgroup hydration on the phase behaviour and structural parameters of the gel and inverse hexagonal (H(II)) phases.

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Department of Chemistry, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, South Kensington, London, UK. J.SEDDON@IC.AC.UK


The phase behaviour and structural parameters of a homologous series of saturated diacyl phosphatidylcholine/fatty acid 1:2 (mol/mol) mixtures having chain lengths from C12 to C20 were studied by X-ray diffraction and calorimetry, as a function of water content. The chain-melting transition temperatures of the 1:2 PC/FA mixtures are found to be largely independent of the degree of hydration. For all chain lengths, the tilted L(beta') and rippled P(beta') gel phases of the pure PC component are replaced by an untilted L(beta) gel phase in the 1:2 PC/FA mixtures. This gel phase swells considerably upon hydration, with a limiting water layer thickness in the range 18-24 A, depending on the chain length. However, unlike pure phospholipid systems, the lateral chain packing within the gel phase bilayers is essentially identical in both the dry and the fully hydrated states. The fluid bilayer L(alpha) phase is suppressed in the 1:2 mixtures, being replaced by inverse non-lamellar phases for all chain lengths greater than C12, and at all levels of hydration. For chain lengths of C16 and greater, the inverse hexagonal H(II) phase is formed directly upon chain melting, at all water contents. For the shorter chain length mixtures, the behaviour is more complex, with the H(II) phase forming at low hydration, but with bicontinuous cubic phases appearing at higher levels of hydration. The implications of these surprising results are explored, in terms of the effective hydrophilicity of the associated PC and FA headgroups and the packing within the interfacial region. We suggest that the presence of the fatty acids significantly alters the lateral stress profile across the lipid monolayer in the fluid state, compared to that of the corresponding pure PC system, such that inverse phases, where the interface bends towards the water, become strongly favoured. Furthermore, for short chain lengths, packing constraints favour the formation of phases with negative interfacial Gaussian curvature, such as the bicontinuous cubic phases, rather than the H(II) phase, which has more severe chain packing frustration.

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