Mixtures of dicaproyl- (DC), dimyristoyl- (DM) and 1-tetradecanoyl-2-biphenylbutanoyl-(TBB) phosphatidylcholine (PC) in water produce bicelle membranes that are oriented by magnetic fields. DMPC/DCPC systems orient such that their membrane plane is parallel to the magnetic field, whereas for TBBPC/DCPC, the plane is perpendicular to the field. Partial temperature-composition-hydration diagrams are established using solid-state 31P-NMR. DMPC/DCPC bicelles exist on a large range of composition but on a narrow temperature domain (25-45 degrees C). At converse, TBBPC/DCPC form bicelles on a narrow compositional range but over a large temperature span (10-70 degrees C). The TBBPC/DCPC bicelles are shown to be a very powerful potential tool to study the orientation of hydrophobic helices in membranes using wide line 15N-NMR. The DMPC/DCPC system that undergoes a micelle-to-bicelle transition on going from 10 degrees C to 40 degrees C may be used with circular dichroism to study the state of association of hydrophobic helices within the membrane. Results suggest that the transmembrane fragment of the neu/erbB-2 receptor is monomeric in micellar medium and dimeric/multimeric in bicelle membranes.
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