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Effects of physiologically relevant pressures of helium on the structure of cholesterol-containing lipid bilayers. A neutron diffraction study.

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  • Research Article
  • Biology


We have used neutron diffraction to study the effects of helium gas (1-210 atm) on the structure of a lipid bilayer model of neuronal plasma membranes. We have recorded diffraction patterns from hydrated multilayers of dimyristoyl lecithin and 40% (molar) cholesterol to a resolution of approximately 6.5 A and have calculated scattering amplitude density distributions as a function of pressure. We find that there are no significant changes in the scattering density profiles at 95% confidence over the range of pressures investigated, suggesting that the physiological effects of high helium pressure are unlikely to be a consequence of changes in the structures of the lipid bilayer portions of membranes.

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