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Activity of the Gramicidin A Ion Channel in a Lipid Membrane with Switchable Physical Properties

Renate Reiter, Ekaterina Zaitseva, Gerhard Baaken, Ibrahim Halimeh, Jan C. Behrends, Andreas Zumbuehl. Langmuir 35 (2019) 14959-14966

Lipid bilayer membranes formed from the artificial 1,3-diamidophospholipid Pad-PC-Pad have the remarkable property that their hydrophobic thickness can be modified in situ: the particular arrangement of the fatty acid chains in Pad-PC-Pad allows them to fully interdigitate below 37 °C, substantially thinning the membrane with respect to the noninterdigitated state. Two stimuli, traversing the main phase transition temperature of the lipid or addition of cholesterol, have previously been shown to disable the interdigitated state. Both manipulations cause an increase in hydrophobic thickness of about 25 Å due to enhanced conformational entropy of the lipids. Here, we characterize the interdigitated state using electrophysiological recordings from free-standing lipid-membranes formed on micro structured electrode cavity arrays. Compared to standard membranes made from 1,2-diphytanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholin (DPhPC), pure Pad-PC-Pad membranes at room temperature had lowered electroporation threshold and higher capacitance. Ion channel formation by the peptide Gramicidin A was clearly facilitated in pure Pad-PC-Pad membranes at room temperature, with activity occurring at significantly lower peptide concentrations and channel dwell times increased by 2 orders of magnitude with respect to DPhPC-membranes. Both elevation of temperature beyond the phase transition and addition of cholesterol reduced channel dwell times, as expected if the reduced membrane thickness stabilized channel formation due to decreased hydrophobic mismatch.

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