The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 187-201

First online:

Influence of a Transmembrane Protein on the Permeability of Small Molecules Across Lipid Membranes

  • T.-X.  XiangAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
  • , B.D.  AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA

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The influence of the nonchannel conformation of the transmembrane protein gramicidin A on the permeability coefficients of neutral and ionized α-X-p-methyl-hippuric acid analogues (XMHA) (X = H, OCH3, CN, OH, COOH, and CONH2) across egg-lecithin membranes has been investigated in vesicle efflux experiments. Although 10 mol% gramicidin A increases lipid chain ordering, it enhances the transport of neutral XMHA analogues up to 8-fold, with more hydrophilic permeants exhibiting the greatest increase. Substituent contributions to the free energies of transfer of both neutral and anionic XMHA analogues from water into the bilayer barrier domain were calculated. Linear free-energy relationships were established between these values and those for solute partitioning from water into decadiene, chlorobutane, butyl ether, and octanol to assess barrier hydrophobicity. The barrier domain is similar for both neutral and ionized permeants and substantially more hydrophobic than octanol, thus establishing its location as being beyond the hydrated headgroup region and eliminating transient water pores as the transport pathway for these permeants, as the hydrated interface or water pores would be expected to be more hydrophilic than octanol. The addition of 10 mol% gramicidin A alters the barrier domain from a decadiene-like solvent to one possessing a greater hydrogen-bond accepting capacity. The permeability coefficients for ionized XMHAs increase with Na+ or K+ concentration, exhibiting saturability at high ion concentrations. This behavior can be quantitatively rationalized by Gouy-Chapman theory, though ion-pairing cannot be conclusively ruled out. The finding that transmembrane proteins alter barrier selectivity, favoring polar permeant transport, constitutes an important step toward understanding permeability in biomembranes.

Key words: Permeability — Gramicidin A — Partition coefficients — Lipid bilayers — Membrane transport — Linear free-energy relationships