Direct imaging of salt effects on lipid bilayer ordering at sub-molecular resolution
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The interactions of salts with lipid bilayers are known to alter the properties of membranes and therefore influence their structure and dynamics. Sodium and calcium cations penetrate deeply into the headgroup region and bind to the lipids, whereas potassium ions only loosely associate with lipid molecules and mostly remain outside of the headgroup region. We investigated a dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) bilayer in the gel phase in the presence of all three cations with a concentration of Ca2+ ions an order of magnitude smaller than the Na+ and K+ ions. Our findings indicate that the area per unit cell does not significantly change in these three salt solutions. However the lipid molecules do re-order non-isotropically under the influence of the three different cations. We attribute this reordering to a change in the highly directional intermolecular interactions caused by a variation in the dipole-dipole bonding arising from a tilt of the headgroup out of the membrane plane. Measurements in different NaCl concentrations also show a non-isotropic re-ordering of the lipid molecules.
KeywordsLipid model membranes Membrane-ion interactions Sodium cations Calcium cations Potassium cations
The authors thank Siu-Hong Loh and Dr. Khizar Sheikh for help in using the AFM and Dr. Jason Kilpatrick for the assistance using digtal FM. This work was supported by Science Foundation Ireland (grant no. 07/IN1/B031).
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