Biochimica et biophysica acta

The electrical response of bilayers to the bee venom toxin melittin: evidence for transient bilayer permeabilization.

PMID 23384418


Melittin is a 26-residue bee venom peptide that folds into amphipathic α-helix and causes membrane permeabilization via a mechanism that is still disputed. While an equilibrium transmembrane pore model has been a central part of the mechanistic dialogue for decades, there is growing evidence that a transmembrane pore is not required for melittin's activity. In part, the controversy is due to limited experimental tools to probe the bilayer's response to melittin. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) is a technique that can reveal details of molecular mechanism of peptide activity, as it yields direct, real-time measurements of membrane resistance and capacitance of supported bilayers. In this work, EIS was used in conjunction with vesicle leakage studies to characterize the response of bilayers of different lipid compositions to melittin. Experiments were carried out at low peptide to lipid ratios between 1:5000 and 1:100. The results directly demonstrate that the response of the bilayer to melittin at these concentrations cannot be explained by an equilibrium transmembrane pore model.

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