Phospholipid headgroups govern area per lipid and emergent elastic properties of bilayers

Trivikram R. Molugu, Robin L. Thurmond, Todd M. Alam, Theodore P. Trouard, Michael F. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Phospholipid bilayers are liquid-crystalline materials whose intermolecular interactions at mesoscopic length scales have key roles in the emergence of membrane physical properties. Here we investigated the combined effects of phospholipid polar headgroups and acyl chains on biophysical functions of membranes with solid-state 2H NMR spectroscopy. We compared the structural and dynamic properties of phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylcholine with perdeuterated acyl chains in the solid-ordered (so) and liquid-disordered (ld) phases. Our analysis of spectral lineshapes of 1,2-diperdeuteriopalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (DPPE-d62) and 1,2-diperdeuteriopalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC-d62) in the so (gel) phase indicated an all-trans rotating chain structure for both lipids. Greater segmental order parameters (SCD) were observed in the ld (liquid-crystalline) phase for DPPE-d62 than for DPPC-d62 membranes, while their mixtures had intermediate values irrespective of the deuterated lipid type. Our results suggest the SCD profiles of the acyl chains are governed by methylation of the headgroups and are averaged over the entire system. Variations in the acyl chain molecular dynamics were further investigated by spin-lattice (R1Z) and quadrupolar-order relaxation (R1Q) measurements. The two acyl-perdeuterated lipids showed distinct differences in relaxation behavior as a function of the order parameter. The R1Z rates had a square-law dependence on SCD, implying collective mesoscopic dynamics, with a higher bending rigidity for DPPE-d62 than for DPPC-d62 lipids. Remodeling of lipid average and dynamic properties by methylation of the headgroups thus provides a mechanism to control the actions of peptides and proteins in biomembranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4205-4220
Number of pages16
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics

Cite this