National Research Council of Canada. NRC Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences
Oriented multilayers of 1-myristoyl-2(1–13C)-myristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (2[1–13C]DMPC) and 1-palmitoyl-2(1–13C)-palmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (2[1–13C]DPPC) were investigated by use of attenuated total reflection infrared spectroscopy with polarized light. Experiments were performed with the aim to determine the orientation of the two ester groups in these phospholipids in the solid state and in the hydrated state at temperatures below and above the respective gel to liquid-crystalline phase transitions. Substitution of the naturally occurring 12C carbonyl carbon atom by 13C in the ester group of the sn-2 chain of DMPC and DPPC shifts the infrared absorption of the carbonyl double bond stretching vibration to lower frequency. This results in two well-resolved ester C=O bands which can be assigned unequivocally to the sn-1 and sn-2 chains as they are separated by more than 40 cm-1. The two ester CO-O single bond stretching vibrations of the molecular fragments-CH2CO-OC-are also affected and the corresponding infrared absorption band shifts by 20 cm-1 on 13C-labeling of the carbonyl carbon atom. From the dichroic ratios of the individual ester bands in 2(1–13C)DMPC and 2(1–13C)DPPC we were able to demonstrate that the sn-1 and sn-2 ester C=O groups are similarly oriented with respect to the bilayer plane, with an angle greater than or equal to 60 degrees relative to the bilayer normal. The two CO-O single bonds on the other hand have very different orientations. The CH2CO-OC fragment of the sn-1 chain is oriented along the direction of the all-trans methylene chain, whereas the same molecular segment of the sn-2 carbon chain is directed toward the bilayer plane. This orientation of the ester groups is retained in the liquid-crystalline phase. The tilt angle of the hydrocarbon all-trans chains, relative to the membrane normal, is 25 degrees in the solid state of DMPC and DPPC multibilayers. In the hydrated gel state this angle varies between 26 degrees and 30 degrees, depending on temperature. Neither the orientation of the phosphate group, nor that of the choline group varies significantly in the different physical states of these phospholipids.