Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 403, Issue 2, pp 473–482 | Cite as

Deuterium-labelled N-acyl-l-homoserine lactones (AHLs)—inter-kingdom signalling molecules—synthesis, structural studies, and interactions with model lipid membranes

  • Dorota Jakubczyk
  • Christoph Barth
  • Adam Kubas
  • Frances Anastassacos
  • Patrick Koelsch
  • Karin Fink
  • Ute Schepers
  • Gerald Brenner-WeißEmail author
  • Stefan BräseEmail author
Original Paper


N-Acyl-l-homoserine lactones (AHLs) are synthesized by Gram-negative bacteria. These quorum-sensing molecules play an important role in the context of bacterial infection and biofilm formation. They also allow communication between microorganisms and eukaryotic cells (inter-kingdom signalling). However, very little is known about the entire mechanism of those interactions. Precise structural studies are required to analyse the different AHL isomers as only one form is biologically most active. Theoretical studies combined with experimental infrared and Raman spectroscopic data are therefore undertaken to characterise the obtained compounds. To mimic interactions between AHL and cell membranes, we studied the insertion of AHL in supported lipid bilayers, using vibrational sum-frequency-generation spectroscopy. Deuterium-labelled AHLs were thus synthesized. Starting from readily available deuterated fatty acids, a two-step procedure towards deuterated N-acyl-l-homoserine lactones with varying chain lengths is described. This included the acylation of Meldrum’s acid followed by amidation. Additionally, the detailed analytical evaluation of the products is presented herein.


Figure Deuterium labelled N-acyl-l-homoserine lactones (AHLs) were synthesized in 2 steps. The combination of theoretical and experimental IR and Raman spectroscopy enables identification of most probable structures of AHLs. The integration of the deuterated AHLs in model lipid membranes (supported lipid bilayers) was further investigated using sum-frequency-generation (SFG) spectroscopy, to mimic interactions between AHL and cell membranes


Inter-kingdom signalling Deuterium-labelled AHLs DFT modelling Geometry optimization Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) Sum-frequency-generation (SFG) spectroscopy 



N-(3-Oxooctanoyl-d 9)-l-homoserine lactone


N-(3-Oxododecanoyl-d 17)-l-homoserine lactone


N-(3-Oxotetradecanoyl-d 21)-l-homoserine lactone


N-Acyl-l-homoserine lactones


Density functional theory


Electrospray ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry


Electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry


High-resolution mass spectrometry


Infrared spectroscopy


Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation




Supported lipid bilayers


Thin-layer chromatography



Financial support from the Helmholtz program Bio-interfaces is gratefully acknowledged. A.K. and K.F. were supported by the DFG-funded transregional collaborative research centre SFB/TRR 88 “3MET”. We thank Stefan Heissler from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute of Functional Interfaces (IFG) for help with IR and Raman spectra acquisition. P.K. and C.B. thank Sofia Svedhem from Chalmers University of Technology for help with QCM-D and SLB preparation as well as Michael Grunze for his support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorota Jakubczyk
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christoph Barth
    • 3
  • Adam Kubas
    • 4
  • Frances Anastassacos
    • 3
  • Patrick Koelsch
    • 3
  • Karin Fink
    • 4
  • Ute Schepers
    • 3
  • Gerald Brenner-Weiß
    • 2
    Email author
  • Stefan Bräse
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyInstitute of Organic ChemistryKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyInstitute of Functional InterfacesEggenstein-LeopoldshafenGermany
  3. 3.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyInstitute of Toxicology and GeneticsEggenstein-LeopoldshafenGermany
  4. 4.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyInstitute of NanotechnologyEggenstein-LeopoldshafenGermany

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