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Effect of deuteration on the phase behaviour and structure of lamellar phases of phosphatidylcholines – Deuterated lipids as proxies for the physical properties of native bilayers

Bryant, Gary, Taylor, Matthew B., Darwish, Tamim A., Krause-Heuer, Anwen M., Kent, Ben, Garvey, Christopher J.
Colloids and surfaces 2019 v.177 pp. 196-203
colloids, neutron diffraction, neutrons, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, phase transition, phosphatidylcholines, small-angle X-ray scattering, temperature
Deuteration of phospholipids is a common practice to elucidate membrane structure, dynamics and function, by providing selective visualisation in neutron scattering, nuclear magnetic resonance and vibrational spectroscopy. It is generally assumed that the properties of the deuterated lipids are identical to those of the protiated lipids, and while a number of papers have compared the properties of different forms, to date this has been no systematic study of the effects over a range of conditions. Here we present a study of the effects of deuteration on the organisation and phase behaviour of four common phospholipids (DSPC, DPPC, DMPC, DOPC), observing the effect of chain deuteration and headgroup deuteration on lipid structure and phase behaviour. For saturated lipids in excess water the gel-fluid phase transition temperature is 4.3 ± 0.1 °C lower for lipids with deuterated chains compared to protiated chains, consistent with previous work. Despite this significant change, well away from the transition structural changes as measured by powder small angle X-ray scattering are small and within errors. To investigate this further, measurements were carried out on oriented multilamellar stacks of DOPC in the fluid phase at reduced hydration. Neutrons are used in conjunction with contrast variation to elucidate the role of the deuteration explicitly. It is found that deuterated chains cause a reduction in the lamellar repeat spacing and bilayer thickness, but deuterated headgroups cause an increase. Consequences for the interpretation of Neutron Scattering data with deuterated lipids are discussed.