Fully hydrated bilayers of monounsaturated palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine (POPC) and diunsaturated dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) lipids have low main phase transition temperatures (271 K for POPC and 253 K for DOPC). Two-pulse echo detected spectra, combined with continuous wave electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, are employed to study the low-temperature lamellar phases of the POPC and DOPC unsaturated bilayers that are usually studied in the fluid state. Phosphatidylcholine spin-labeled at C-5 and C-16 carbon atom positions along the acyl chain were used and the temperature varied over the range 77-270 K. Segmental chain librational oscillations of small amplitude and with correlation time in the subnanosecond to nanosecond range are found in both membranes. The mean-square angular amplitude, 〈α2〉, of librations increases with temperature, is larger close to the bilayer midplane than close to the first acyl chain segments, and is larger in diunsaturated than in monounsaturated bilayers. In the inner hydrocarbon region of both lipid matrices, 〈α2〉 increases first slowly and linearly with temperature and then more rapidly, and a dynamical transition is detected in the range 190-210 K. Compared to dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine bilayers of fully saturated symmetric chain lipids, the presence of double bonds in the acyl chain enhances the intensity of librational motion which is characterized by larger angular variations at the terminal methyl ends. These findings highlight biophysical properties of unsaturated bilayers in the frozen state, including a detailed characterization of segmental chain dynamics and the evidence of a dynamical transition that appears to be a generic feature in hydrated macromolecular systems. These results can also be relevant in regulating membrane physical properties and function at higher physiological temperatures.
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