Interactions of drugs and amphiphiles with membranes: modulation of lipid bilayer elastic properties by changes in acyl chain unsaturation and protonation

by Bruno, M. J.; Rusinova, R.; Gleason, N. J.; Koeppe, R. E.; Andersen, O. S.

Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) alter the function of many membrane proteins, whereas monounsatured fatty acids generally are inert. We previously showed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at pH 7 decreases the bilayer stiffness, consistent with an amphiphile-induced increase in elasticity, but not with a negative change in curvature; oleic acid (OA) was inert (Bruno, Koeppe and Andersen, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 2007, 104, 9638-9643). To further explore how PUFAs and other amphiphiles may alter lipid bilayer properties, and thus membrane protein function, we examined how changes in acyl chain unsaturation and head group charge and size alter bilayer properties, as sensed by bilayer-spanning gramicidin A (gA) channels of different lengths. Compared to DHA, the neutral DHA-methyl ester has reduced effects on bilayer properties and 1-palmitoyl-2-docosahexaenoyl-phosphatidylcholine (PDPC) forms bilayers that are softer than dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC). The changes in channel function are larger for the short gA channels, indicating that changes in elasticity dominate over changes in curvature. We altered the fatty acid protonation by titration: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is more potent at pH 9 (relative to pH 7) and is inert at pH 4; OA, which was inert at pH 7, becomes a potent modifier of bilayer properties at pH 9. At both pH 7 and 9, DHA and OA produced larger changes in the lifetimes of the short gA channels, demonstrating that they increase lipid bilayer elasticity when deprotonated-though OA promotes the formation of inverted hexagonal phases at pH 7. The positively charged oleylamine (OAm), which has a small head-group and therefore should be a negative curvature promoter, inhibited gA channel function with similar reductions in the lifetimes of the short and long gA channels, indicating a curvature-dominated effect. Monitoring the single-channel conductance, we find that the negatively charged fatty acids increase the conductance by increasing the local negative charge around the channel, whereas the positively charged OAm has no effect. These results suggest that deprotonated fatty acids increase bilayer elasticity by reversibly adsorbing at the bilayer/solution interface.

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