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  1. Abstract

    We studied the transleaflet coupling of compositionally asymmetric liposomes in the fluid phase. The vesicles were produced by cyclodextrin-mediated lipid exchange and contained dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) in the inner leaflet and different mixed-chain phosphatidylcholines (PCs) as well as milk sphingomyelin (MSM) in the outer leaflet. In order to jointly analyze the obtained small-angle neutron and X-ray scattering data, we adapted existing models of trans-bilayer structures to measure the overlap of the hydrocarbon chain termini by exploiting the contrast of the terminal methyl ends in X-ray scattering. In all studied systems, the bilayer-asymmetry has large effects on the lipid packing density. Fully saturated mixed-chain PCs interdigitate into the DPPC-containing leaflet and evoke disorder in one or both leaflets. The long saturated acyl chains of MSM penetrate even deeper into the opposing leaflet, which in turn has an ordering effect on the whole bilayer. These results are qualitatively understood in terms of a balance of entropic repulsion of fluctuating hydrocarbon chain termini and van der Waals forces, which is modulated by the interdigitation depth. Monounsaturated PCs in the outer leaflet also induce disorder in DPPC despite vestigial or even absent interdigitation. Instead, the transleaflet coupling appears to emerge here from a matching of the inner leaflet lipids to the larger lateral lipid area of the outer leaflet lipids.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    We addressed the frequent occurrence of mixed-chain lipids in biological membranes and their impact on membrane structure by studying several chain-asymmetric phosphatidylcholines and the highly asymmetric milk sphingomyelin. Specifically, we report trans-membrane structures of the corresponding fluid lamellar phases using small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering, which were jointly analyzed in terms of a membrane composition-specific model, including a headgroup hydration shell. Focusing on terminal methyl groups at the bilayer center, we found a linear relation between hydrocarbon chain length mismatch and the methyl-overlap for phosphatidylcholines, and a non-negligible impact of the glycerol backbone-tilting, letting the sn1-chain penetrate deeper into the opposing leaflet by half a CH2 group. That is, penetration-depth differences due to the ester-linked hydrocarbons at the glycerol backbone, previously reported for gel phase structures, also extend to the more relevant physiological fluid phase, but are significantly reduced. Moreover, milk sphingomyelin was found to follow the same linear relationship suggesting a similar tilt of the sphingosine backbone. Complementarily performed molecular dynamics simulations revealed that there is always a part of the lipid tails bending back, even if there is a high interdigitation with the opposing chains. The extent of this back-bending was similar to that in chain symmetric bilayers. For both cases of adaptation to chain length mismatch, chain-asymmetry has a large impact on hydrocarbon chain ordering, inducing disorder in the longer of the two hydrocarbons. 
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