The effects of gramicidin on the structure of phospholipid assemblies. Academic Article uri icon


  • Gramicidin is an antibiotic peptide that can be incorporated into the monolayers of cell membranes. Dimerization through hydrogen bonding between gramicidin monomers in opposing leaflets of the membrane results in the formation of an iontophoretic channel. Surrounding phospholipids influence the gating properties of this channel. Conversely, gramicidin incorporation has been shown to affect the structure of spontaneously formed lipid assemblies. Using small-angle x-ray diffraction and model systems composed of phospholipids and gramicidin, the effects produced by gramicidin on lipid layers were measured. These measurements explore how peptides are able to modulate the spontaneous curvature properties of phospholipid assemblies. The reverse hexagonal, H(II), phase formed by dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE) monolayers decreased in lattice dimension with increasing incorporation of gramicidin. This indicated that gramicidin itself was adding negative curvature to the lipid layers. In this system, gramicidin was measured to have an apparent intrinsic radius of curvature, R0pgram, of -7.1 A. The addition of up to 4 mol% gramicidin in DOPE did not result in the monolayers becoming stiffer, as measured by the monolayer bending moduli. Dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) alone forms the lamellar (L(alpha)) phase when hydrated, but undergoes a transition into the reverse hexagonal (H(II)) phase when mixed with gramicidin. The lattice dimension decreases systematically with increased gramicidin content. Again, this indicated that gramicidin was adding negative curvature to the lipid monolayers but the mixture behaved structurally much less consistently than DOPE/gramicidin. Only at 12 mol% gramicidin in dioleoylphosphatidylcholine could an apparent radius of intrinsic curvature of gramicidin (R0pgram) be estimated as -7.4 A. This mixture formed monolayers that were very resistant to bending, with a measured bending modulus of 115 kT.

published proceedings

  • Biophys J

author list (cited authors)

  • Szule, J. A., & Rand, R. P.

citation count

  • 20

complete list of authors

  • Szule, JA||Rand, RP

publication date

  • September 2003