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Molecular Mechanics and Calorimetric Studies of Phosphatidylethanols

Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/abbi.2000.2141
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry
  • Molecular Mechanics Simulations
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanols
  • Chemistry
  • Communication
  • Medicine
  • Physics


Abstract Phosphatidylethanols (PEths) are negatively charged diacyl phospholipids that are ubiquitously present in humans under the condition of alcohol intoxication. These lipids, derived in vivo from other naturally occurring phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholines (PC) via transphosphatidylation reaction as catalyzed by phospholipase D in the presence of ethanol, are well known to affect many biochemical properties of the cell membranes in humans. In this communication, we applied the combined approach of molecular mechanics (MM) simulations and high-sensitivity differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) to investigate the structure and phase transition behavior of PEth. We first determined the energy-minimized structures of tetrameric C(15):C(15)PEth arranged in two types of packing motif by the MM approach. An inwardly bent orientation of the lipid headgroup was observed; specifically, the methyl terminus of PEth's headgroup was juxtaposed intramolecularly to the C(2) atom of the sn-2 acyl chain. Clearly, this headgroup conformation was rather unique among all naturally occurring phospholipids. Subsequently, the phase transition behavior of the fully hydrated lipid bilayers prepared individually from 11 species of saturated C(X):C(Y)PEth with the same MW was studied by DSC, and the resulting Tm values were codified in terms of the normalized acyl chain asymmetry (ΔC/CL). A V-shaped Tm profile was observed in the plot of Tm versus ΔC/CL for each subclass of these lipids, suggesting two types of packing motif for C(X):C(Y)PEth at T <Tm. Moreover, it was observed that within each packing motif these Tm values were, on average, 2.0 ± 0.9°C smaller than the Tm values of the corresponding saturated PC. However, based on the unique headgroup conformation of PEth, we were able to predict that monounsaturated PEth with a cis double bond near the H2O/hydrocarbon interface would exhibit a higher Tm than the corresponding PC. Most interestingly, this prediction was indeed borne out by DSC results obtained with C(18):C(20:1Δ5)PC and C(18):C(20:1Δ5)PEth.

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