, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 261–274

Hg2+ and Cd2+ interact differently with biomimetic erythrocyte membranes

  • Mary Trang Le
  • Jürgen Gailer
  • Elmar J. Prenner


In order to characterize the potentially deleterious effects of toxic Hg2+ and Cd2+ on lipid membranes, we have studied their binding to liposomes whose composition mimicked erythrocyte membranes. Fluorescence spectroscopy utilizing the concentration dependent quenching of Phen Green™ SK by Hg2+ and Cd2+ was found to be a sensitive tool to probe these interactions at metal concentrations ≤1 μM. We have systematically developed a metal binding affinity assay to screen for the interactions of Hg2+ or Cd2+ with certain lipid classes. A biomimetic liposome system was developed that contained four major lipid classes of erythrocyte membranes (zwitterionic lipids: phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine; negatively charged: phosphatidylserine and neutral: cholesterol). In contrast to Hg2+, which preferentially bound to the negatively charged phosphatidylserine compared to the zwitterionic components, Cd2+ bound stronger to the two zwitterionic lipids. Thus, the observed distinct differences in the binding affinity of Hg2+ and Cd2+ for certain lipid classes together with their known effects on membrane properties represent an important first step toward a better understanding the role of these interactions in the chronic toxicity of these metals.


Toxic metals Hg2+ Cd2+ Liposomes Model systems Membranes Lipids Erythrocytes Fluorescence spectroscopy 

















Phen Green™ SK


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Trang Le
    • 1
  • Jürgen Gailer
    • 2
  • Elmar J. Prenner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science ProgramUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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