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J Membr Biol. 1998 Mar 15;162(2):127-38.

Molecular mechanisms of polymyxin B-membrane interactions: direct correlation between surface charge density and self-promoted transport.

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Research Center Borstel, Department of Immunochemistry and Biochemical Microbiology, Germany.


We have studied the interaction of the polycationic peptide antibiotic polymyxin B (PMB) with asymmetric planar bilayer membranes via electrical measurements. The bilayers were of different compositions, including those of the lipid matrices of the outer membranes of various species of Gram-negative bacteria. One leaflet, representing the bacterial inner leaflet, consisted of a phospholipid mixture (PL; phosphatidylethanolamine, -glycerol, and diphosphatidylglycerol in a molar ratio of 81:17:2). The other (outer) leaflet consisted either of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from deep rough mutants of PMB-sensitive (Escherichia coli F515) or -resistant strains (Proteus mirabilis R45), glycosphingolipid (GSL-1) from Sphingomonas paucimobilis IAM 12576, or phospholipids (phosphatidylglycerol, diphytanoyl-phosphatidylcholine). In all membrane systems, the addition of PMB to the outer leaflet led to the induction of current fluctuations due to transient membrane lesions. The minimal PMB concentration required for the induction of the lesions and their size correlated with the charge of the lipid molecules. In the membrane system resembling the lipid matrix of a PMB-sensitive strain (F515 LPS/PL), the diameters of the lesions were large enough (d = 2.4 nm +/- 8%) to allow PMB molecules to permeate (self-promoted transport), but in all other systems they were too small. A comparison of these phenomena with membrane effects induced by detergents (dodecyltriphenylphosphonium bromide, dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide, sodiumdodecylsulfate) revealed a detergent-like mechanism of the PMB-membrane interaction.

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