Author(s): Brndn M, Sandn T, Brzezinski P, Widengren J
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Abstract Cellular processes such as nerve conduction, energy metabolism, and import of nutrients into cells all depend on transport of ions across biological membranes through specialized membrane-spanning proteins. Understanding these processes at a molecular level requires mechanistic insights into the interaction between these proteins and the membrane itself. To explore the role of the membrane in ion translocation we used an approach based on fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. Specifically, we investigated exchange of protons between the water phase and the membrane surface, as well as diffusion of protons along membrane surfaces, at a single-molecule level. We show that the lipid head groups collectively act as a proton-collecting antenna, dramatically accelerating proton uptake from water to a membrane-anchored proton acceptor. Furthermore, the results show that proton transfer along the surface can be significantly faster than that between the lipid head groups and the surrounding water phase. Thus, ion translocation across membranes and between the different membrane protein components is a complex interplay between the proteins and the membrane itself, where the membrane acts as a proton-conducting link between membrane-spanning proton transporters.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Bioenergetics: Open Access