Author(s): Harishchandra RK, Wulff S, Lentzen G, Neuhaus T, Galla HJ
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Abstract Compatible solutes are small organic osmolytes responsible for osmotic balance and at the same time compatible with the cellular metabolism. Here, we have investigated the effect of the compatible solutes, ectoine and hydroxyectoine, on the fluid-rigid domain structure of lipid monolayer and bilayer membranes. Mainly saturated dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylcholine membranes exhibiting a clear le/lc phase transition were used. Fluorescence microscopy showed that ectoines added to the aqueous subphase expand and fluidize the lipid monolayers especially at surface pressures below 30mN/m. The domain structure at the le/lc phase transition is sensitively modified leading to smaller but more numerous domains in the presence of ectoines. Hydroxyectoine was more efficient than ectoine. These results are explained by the replacement theory assuming that the ectoines are likely to be expelled from the membrane surface thus favoring the hydration of the lipid membrane. This effect reduces the line tension, which is the interfacial energy at the domain edges leading to reduced domain sizes and increased number of rigid domains. Isotherms of negatively charged phosphatidylglycerol membranes show a similar expansion, while unsaturated lipids are less affected. Mixed phosphatidylcholine/phosphatidylglycerol membranes exhibit the same effect on the line tension increasing the tendency for a phase separation. This could be shown also in bilayer vesicles, where the compatible solutes have only a minor effect on the lipid main phase transition in pure DPPC membranes but reduce the extent of the pretransition. In mixed DPPC/DPPG bilayer membranes ectoines cause a phase separation leading to the enrichment of expanded DPPC domains. In conclusion, our study gives for the first time evidence that ectoines have an effect on lipid membranes increasing the hydration of the surface and thus increasing the mobility of the lipid head groups and fluidizing the lipid layer accordingly. This increased fluidity may be of advantage for cell membranes to withstand extreme conditions like temperature or osmotic pressure and might also accelerate cellular repair mechanisms.
This article was published in Biophys Chem
and referenced in Journal of Aquaculture Research & Development