Dynamic studies of proton diffusion in mesoscopic heterogeneous matrix: II. The interbilayer space between phospholipid membranes

M. Gutman, E. Nachliel, S. Kiryati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The thin water layer, as found in chloroplast or mitochondria, is confined between low dielectric amphypathic surfaces a few nm apart. The physical properties of this mesoscopic space, and how its dimensions affect the rate of chemical reactions proceeding in it, is the subject for this study. The method selected for this purpose is time resolved fluorometry which can monitor the reversible dissociation of a proton from excited molecule of pyranine (8 hydroxy pyrene 1,3,6 tri sulfonate) trapped in thin water layers of a multilamellar vesicle made of neutral or slightly charged phospholipids. The results were analyzed by a computer program of N. Agmon (Pines, E., D. Huppert, and N. Agmon. 1988. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 88:5620–5630) that simulates the diffusion of a proton, subjected to electrostatic attraction, in a thin water layer enclosed between low affinity, proton binding surfaces. The analysis determines the diffusion coefficient of the proton, the effective dielectric constant of the water and the water accessibility of the phosphomoieties of the lipids. These parameters were measured for various lipids [egg-phosphatidylcholine (egg PC), dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC), cholesterol + DPPC (1:1) and egg PC plus phosphatidyl serine (9:1)] and under varying osmotic pressure which reduces the width of the water layer down to ∼10 ∼ across. We found that: (a) The effective dielectric constant of the aqueous layer, depending on the lipid composition, is ∼40. (b) The diffusion coefficient of the proton in the thin layer (30–10 ∼ across) is that measured in bulk water D = 9.3 10-5 cm2/s, indicating that the water retains its normal liquid state even on contact with the membrane. (c) The reactivity of the phosphomoiety, quantitated by rate of its reaction with proton, diminishes under lateral pressure which reduces the surface area per lipid. We find no evidence for abnormal dynamics of proton transfer at the lipid water interface which, by any mechanism, accelerates its diffusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-290
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992


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