The fluorescence decay of several organic dye molecules intercalated in egg phosphatidylcholine lipid membrane vesicles is consistent with the existence of two or three prominent lifetime components rather than a single continuous distribution of lifetimes. The major lifetime components are identified with different sites of solubilization in the membrane. The variation of the lifetime of the membrane-bound dye was studied as a function of the sucrose concentration, which varied the viscosity and refractive index of the aqueous solution. The combined effect of viscosity and refractive index on the lifetime of the dye was used to identify the site of solubilization of the dye in the membrane. The study was useful to identify dye molecules on the surface which are exposed to the aqueous phase, for which the fluorescence lifetime increased systematically with sucrose (viscosity effect). More importantly, it was possible in a few cases to identify the dye molecules which are oriented in the membrane phase, and the fluorescence lifetime decreased systematically with sucrose (refractive index effect). Anomalous values of order parameters determined from the refractive index effect are explained in terms of an orientational distribution of the linear dye molecule weighted in favor of mutually orthogonal orientations.
Lifetimes membrane vesicles egg phosphatidylcholine viscosity refractive index order parameter