Publication Details

Fukuma, T., Higgins, M. J. & Jarvis, S. P. (2007). Direct imaging of individual intrinsic hydration layers on lipid bilayers with Angstrom resolution. Biophysical Journal, 92 (10), 3603-3609.


The interactions between water and biological molecules have the potential to influence the structure, dynamics, and function of biological systems, hence the importance of revealing the nature of these interactions in relation to the local biochemical environment. We have investigated the structuring of water at the interface of supported dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine bilayers in the gel phase in phosphate buffer solution using frequency modulation atomic force microscopy (FM-AFM). We present experimental results supporting the existence of intrinsic (i.e., surface-induced) hydration layers adjacent to the bilayer. The force versus distance curves measured between the bilayer and the AFM tip show oscillatory force profiles with a peak spacing of 0.28 nm, indicative of the existence of up to two hydration layers next to the membrane surface. These oscillatory force profiles reveal the molecular-scale origin of the hydration force that has been observed between two apposing lipid bilayers. Furthermore, FM-AFM imaging at the water/lipid interface visualizes individual hydration layers in three dimensions, with molecular-scale corrugations corresponding to the lipid headgroups. The results demonstrate that the intrinsic hydration layers are stable enough to present multiple energy barriers to approaching nanoscale objects, such as proteins and solvated ions, and are expected to affect membrane permeability and transport.



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