Density, DSC, X-ray and NMR measurements through the gel and lamellar phase transitions of 1-myristoyl-2-stearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (MSPC) and 1-stearoyl-2-myristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (SMPC): observation of slow relaxation processes and mechanisms of phase transitions
Dialkyl lecithin dispersions in water exhibit two phase transitions upon cooling from the lamellar phase (Lα). At the main transition (TM) the Lα phase changes to a ripple (gel) phase (Pβ′) which then transforms to a second gel phase (Lβ′) at the “pretransition” (TP). We have made accurate density measurements through the various phases for two lecithins having unequal chains: 1-myristoyl-2-stearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (MSPC) and 1-stearoyl-2-myristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (SMPC). The measurements were carried out over five heat/cool cycles from 5 to 55 °C, followed by cooling back to 5 °C. The samples were then held at 50 °C for 24 hours, followed by a further three cool/heat cycles. For SMPC we observe an increase in density of the gel phases over the first 5 cycles, followed by much smaller changes after incubation at 50 °C. The lamellar phase also shows an increase in density, albeit much smaller. This parallels the behaviour of 1,2-di-palmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) and 1,2-di-myristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DMPC) reported earlier (Jones et al., Liquid Crystals 32, 1465 (2005)). For MSPC we observe a decrease in density within the gel phases while TP almost disappears after the first cycle. The lamellar phase shows little evidence of any change with each cycle. Within the lamellar phases there is a marked reduction in density on approaching TM, which is attributed to the formation of transitory gel phase domains. Additional measurements by DSC and X-ray diffraction show that the changes in densities are not accompanied by large changes in transition enthalpies or phase structures. NMR data indicate that the pretransitional event within the Lα phase is accompanied by ordering of the alkyl chains. The results indicate that the exact nature of the lipid alkyl chains could play a key role in the formation of gel phase patches within membrane bilayers. Their detailed chemical structures merit more attention than by simply assuming a uniform “bending energy” to describe the behaviour.