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Gramicidin A aggregation in supported gel state phosphatidylcholine bilayers.

Biochemistry (1996-03-12)
J Mou, D M Czajkowsky, Z Shao
ABSTRACT

Using an atomic force microscope, supported bilayers of saturated phosphatidylcholine (in the gel state) containing various amounts of gramicidin A (gA) were imaged in aqueous solutions and at room temperature. gA clusters were directly observed for the first time under these conditions. It was found that, at a lower gA concentration, gA aggregated into domains, composed of small clusters along with a considerable amount of lipids. This basic aggregation unit, most likely a hexamer, remained the same for acyl chain lengths from 14 to 18 carbons. These small clusters were observed to form elongated aggregates (line type) but never into extended pure gA domains. When gA concentrations were increased, for bilayers with 16 carbons or less, gA aggregated into larger domains but the basic unit remained separated by lipid molecules. At about 5 mol % gA, a percolation-like transition occurred at which the line type aggregates were connected to each other. However, for bilayers with more than 16 carbons, multiple lamellar structures were formed at higher gA fractions and the top layer had a ripple-like surface morphology. The molecular mechanism for the formation of these peculiar structures remains to be elucidated.