Structural properties of docosahexaenoyl phospholipid bilayers investigated by solid-state 2H NMR spectroscopy

H. I. Petrache, A. Salmon, M. F. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Polyunsaturated lipids in cellular membranes are known to play key roles in such diverse biological processes as vision, neuronal signaling, and apoptosis. One hypothesis is that polyunsaturated lipids are involved in second messenger functions in biological signaling. Another current hypothesis affirms that the functional role of polyunsaturated lipids relies on their ability to modulate physical properties of the lipid bilayer. The present research has employed solid-state 2H NMR spectroscopy to acquire knowledge of the molecular organization and material properties of polyunsaturated lipid bilayers: We report measurements for a homologous series of mixed-chain phosphatidylcholines containing a perdeuterated, saturated acyl chain (n:0) at the sn-1 position, adjacent to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6ω3) at the sn-2 position. Measurements have been performed on fluid (Lα)-state multilamellar dispersions as a function of temperature for saturated acyl chain lengths of n = 12, 14, 16, and 18 carbons. The saturated sn-1 chains are therefore used as an intrinsic probe with site-specific resolution of the polyunsaturated bilayer structure. The 2H NMR order parameters as a function of acyl position (order profiles) have been analyzed using a mean-torque potential model for the chain segments; and the results are discussed in comparison with the homologous series of disaturated lipid bilayers. At a given absolute temperature, as the sn-1 acyl length adjacent to the sn-2 DHA chain is greater, the order of the initial chain segments increases, whereas that of the end segments decreases, in marked contrast with the corresponding disaturated series. For the latter, the order of the end segments is practically constant with acyl length, thus revealing a universal chain packing profile. We find that the DHA-containing series, while more complex, is still characterized by a universal chain packing profile, which is shifted relative to the homologous saturated series. Moreover, we show how introduction of DHA chains translates the order profile along the saturated chains, making more disordered states accessible within the bilayer central region. As a result, the area per lipid headgroup is increased as compared to disaturated bilayers. The systematic analysis of the 2H NMR data provides a basis for studies of lipid interactions with integral membrane proteins, for instance in relation to characteristic biological functions of highly unsaturated lipid membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12611-12622
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 19 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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