D. Kurad, G. Jeschke, D. MarshLipid Membrane Polarity Profiles by High-Field EPR.Biophysical Journal. 85(2), 1025-1033 (2003)
Profiles of polarity across biological membranes are essential determinants of the cellular permeability barrier and of the stability of transmembrane proteins. High-field electron paramagnetic resonance of systematically spin-labeled lipid chains is used here to determine the polarity profiles of cholesterol-containing phospholipid membranes. The polarity dependence of the gxx-tensor element is opposite to the dependence on chain dynamics, and additionally has enhanced sensitivity to hydrogen bonding. Both features make high-field measurements superior to conventional determinations of local polarity from spin-label hyperfine couplings. The profile of gxx in dimyristoyl phosphatidylcholine membranes with 5 or 40 mol% cholesterol is established with eleven positional isomers of phosphatidylcholine, spin labeled at positions n = 4-14 in the sn-2 chain. A sigmoidal barrier, centered about chain position n0 ? 8, mirrors the corresponding sigmoidal trough obtained from the spin-label hyperfine coupling, Azz. For the different positions, n, it is found that partial derivativegxx/partial derivativeAzz = -2.4 T-1, a high value that is characteristic of hydrogen-bonded spin labels. This demonstrates that the transmembrane polarity pro. le registered by spin labels corresponds to water penetration into the membrane. Inhomogeneous broadening of the gxx-spectral feature demonstrates heterogeneities of the water distribution in the regions of higher intramembrane polarity defined by n < 8. In the transition region between high- and low-polarity regions (n ? 8), the gxx-feature consists of two components characteristic of coexisting hydrated and nonhydrated states.