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Interaction of Anionic Phenylene Ethynylene Polymers with Lipids: From Membrane Embedding to Liposome Fusion

Karam, Pierre, Hariri, Amani A., Calver, Christina F., Zhao, Xiaoyong, Schanze, Kirk S., Cosa, Gonzalo
Langmuir 2014 v.30 no.35 pp. 10704-10711
deformation, lipids, mixing, polymers, spectral analysis, surfactants, titration, zwitterions
Here we report spectroscopic studies on the interaction of negatively charged, amphiphilic polyphenylene ethynylene (PPE) polymers with liposomes prepared either from negative, positive or zwitterionic lipids. Emission spectra of PPEs of 7 and 49 average repeat units bearing carboxylate terminated side chains showed that the polymer embeds within positively charged lipids where it exists as free chains. No interaction was observed between PPEs and negatively charged lipids. Here the polymer remained aggregated giving rise to broad emission spectra characteristic of the aggregate species. In zwitterionic lipids, we observed that the majority of the polymer remained aggregated yet a small fraction readily embedded within the membrane. Titration experiments revealed that saturation of zwitterionic lipids with polymer typically occurred at a polymer repeat unit to lipid mole ratio close to 0.05. No further membrane embedding was observed above that point. For liposomes prepared from positively charged lipids, saturation was observed at a PPE repeat unit to lipid mole ratio of ∼0.1 and liposome precipitation was observed above this point. FRET studies showed that precipitation was preceded by lipid mixing and liposome fusion induced by the PPEs. This behavior was prominent for the longer polymer and negligible for the shorter polymer at a repeat unit to lipid mole ratio of 0.05. We postulate that fusion is the consequence of membrane destabilization whereby the longer polymer gives rise to more extensive membrane deformation than the shorter polymer.