Proton flux across artificial vesicle bilayers

Jose C Barreto, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The study of proton conductance across artificial membranes has revealed a surprisingly high permeability for H+, (Pnet H+). A high Pnet H+ is difficult to reconcile with the biological requirement for the maintenance of pH gradients across the plasma membranes of cells, organellar study was undertaken to examine the role played by cholesterol and phospholipid fatty acid side chain composition in determining how well a membrane will function as a barrier to acid. The effects of counter-ion movement on acidification rates were examined in order to interpret the data obtained from variations in membrane composition. In phosphate buffered saline solutions, vesicle membranes composed of unsaturated fatty acid phosphatidylcholines proved to be poorer barriers to acid than membranes composed of saturated fatty acids. The barrier properties of these membranes could be ranked in the following order: DPL, (palmitic) $>$ Egg PC, (mixed chains) $>$ DLL, (linoleic), with DPL being the most effective in maintaining a one pH unit gradient near neutrality. Cholesterol decreased acidification rates of membranes made from the unsaturated phosphatidylcholines Egg PC and DLL, but enhanced acidification rates in vesicle membranes composed of the saturated phospholipid DPL. The cholesterol and fatty acid side chain effects were mediated by changes in membrane fluidity, with more rigid bilayers forming better barriers to acid. Experimental evidence was obtained which confirmed the Pnet H+ is very high relative to the permeabilities of other ions. Counter-ion controlled acidification rates depended on the size and charge of the ion which was moving in order to maintain electroneutrality. The biological relevance of a high intrinsic Pnet H+ and the possible role of counter-ion controlled acidification were discussed.

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Recommended Citation

Barreto, Jose C, "Proton flux across artificial vesicle bilayers" (1989). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9008970.