Characterization of magnetically oriented phospholipid micelles for measurement of dipolar couplings in macromolecules

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Abstract

Weak alignment of solute molecules with the magnetic field can be achieved in a dilute liquid crystalline medium, consisting of an aqueous mixture of dimyristoyl-phosphatidylcholine (DMPC) and dihexanoyl-phosphatidylcholine (DHPC). For a certain range of molar ratios, DMPC and DHPC can form large, disc-shaped particles, commonly referred to as bicelles (Sanders and Schwonek, 1992), which cooperatively align in the magnetic field and induce a small degree of alignment on asymmetrically shaped solute molecules. As a result, dipolar couplings between pairs of 1H, 13C or 15N nuclei are no longer averaged to zero by rotational diffusion and they can be readily measured, providing valuable structural information. The stability of these liquid crystals and the degree of alignment of the solute molecules depend strongly on experimental variables such as the DMPC:DHPC ratio and concentration, the preparation protocol of the DMPC/DHPC mixtures, as well as salt, temperature, and pH. The lower temperature limit for which the liquid crystalline phase is stable can be reduced to 20 °C by using a ternary mixture of DHPC, DMPC, and 1-myristoyl-2-myristoleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, or a binary mixture of DHPC and ditridecanoyl-phosphatidylcholine. These issues are discussed, with an emphasis on the use of the medium for obtaining weak alignment of biological macromolecules.

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