Gramicidin channels in phospholipid bilayers with unsaturated acyl chains
by Girshman, J.; Greathouse, D. V.; Koeppe, R. E.; Andersen, O. S.
In organic solvents gramicidin A (gA) occurs as a mixture of slowly interconverting double-stranded dimers. Membrane-spanning gA channels, in contrast, are almost exclusively single-stranded beta(6.3)-helical dimers. Based on spectroscopic evidence, it has previously been concluded that the conformational preference of gA in phospholipid bilayers varies as a function of the degree of unsaturation of the acyl chains. Double-stranded pi pi(5.6)-helical dimers predominate (over single-stranded beta(6.3)-helical dimers) in lipid bilayer membranes with polyunsaturated acyl chains. We therefore examined the characteristics of channels formed by gA in 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine/n-decane, 1,2-dioleoylphosphatidylcholine/n-decane, and 1,2-dilinoleoylphosphatidylcholine/n-decane bilayers. We did not observe long-lived channels that could be conducting double-stranded pi pi(5.6)-helical dimers in any of these different membrane environments. We conclude that the single-stranded beta(6.3)-helical dimer is the only conducting species in these bilayers. Somewhat surprisingly, the average channel duration and channel-forming potency of gA are increased in dilinoleoylphosphatidylcholine/n-decane bilayers compared to 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine/n and dioleoylphosphatidylcholine/n-decane bilayers. To test for specific interactions between the aromatic side chains of gA and the acyl chains of the bilayer, we examined the properties of channels formed by gramicidin analogues in which the four tryptophan residues were replaced with naphthylalanine (gN), tyrosine (gT), and phenylalanine (gM). The results show that all of these analogue channels experience the same relative stabilization when going from dioleoylphosphatidylcholine to dilinoleoylphosphatidylcholine bilayers.