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Bent Fatty Acid Chains in Lecithin Bilayers

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  • Physical Sciences: Chemistry


An analysis of the paramagnetic resonance spectra of a number of phospholipid spin labels in multi-lamellar arrays of lecithin bilayers has been carried out in terms of a distribution of label orientations, and the amplitude and time dependence of high-frequency random motions about these orientations. This analysis indicates that there is a long-lived (>10-8 sec) average bending of the fatty acid chains such that near the polar head groups the chains are comparatively rigid and tilted at about 30° relative to a normal to the bilayer plane, whereas near the terminal methyl groups the chains are flexible and on the average parallel to this normal. This bent conformation of the chains permits the packing of chains into planar lamellar arrays even when different segments of the chain have different motional freedom.

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