The effects of solutes on the phase behaviour of phospholipid membranes

Lenne, T 2008, The effects of solutes on the phase behaviour of phospholipid membranes, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Applied Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title The effects of solutes on the phase behaviour of phospholipid membranes
Author(s) Lenne, T
Year 2008
Abstract Severe dehydration is lethal for most biological species, however there are a number of organisms which have evolved mechanisms to avoid damage during dehydration. One of these mechanisms is the accumulation of small solutes (e.g. sugars), which have been shown to preserve membranes by inhibiting deleterious phase changes at low hydration. Specifically, sugars reduce the gel to fluid phase transition temperatures of model lipid/water mixtures. However, there is debate about the precise mechanism, the resolution of which hinges on the location of the sugars. An experimental investigation into the effects of small solutes on the phase behaviour of phospholipid membranes is presented in order help identify the mechanisms by which solutes facilitate desiccation tolerance. Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) was used to determine the first comprehensive phase diagram for the synthetic phospholipid DPPC over a wide range of hydration and solute molar ratios between 0.1 and 1.0 sugars per lipid. Over the same range of hydrations and solute concentrations Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS) was used to measure the structural parameters of the membrane bilayers necessary to determine both the phase of the membrane lipids and the location of the solutes. SAXS was also used to conduct the first comprehensive study of the effect of solutes on the kinetics of the fluid - gel transition of DPPC over a range of both hydration and solute concentration. Finally, contrast variation Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) was used to quantitatively determine the location of the solutes.

Data from these complimentary techniques are presented which show a monotonic relationship between both transition temperature and repeat spacing with respect to solute concentration. This relationship exists between solute:lipid molar ratios between 0.1 to approximately 0.5, after which higher concentrations of solute are shown to have no further effect on either the bilayer repeat spacing or transition temperature. It is proposed that the exclusion of small solutes into sugar/water micro-phases external to the bilayer can account for this behaviour.

A theoretical model previously used to describe membrane phase behaviour at low hydrations is modified to account for the presence of solutes between membrane bilayers. This model is shown to be in quantitative agreement with the experimental data up until approximately 0.5 sucrose molecules per lipid, the point of solute exclusion. Once exclusion is taken into account, the model is quantitative over the whole range of sugar concentrations.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Applied Sciences
Keyword(s) Phospholipids
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