Indexed on: 23 Mar '07Published on: 23 Mar '07Published in: Biochimica et biophysica acta
Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) films of two heteroacid phospholipids of biological interest 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (POPE) and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC), as well as a mixed monolayer with chi(POPC)=0.4, were transferred onto mica in order to investigate by a combination of atomic force microscopy (AFM) and force spectroscopy (FS) their height, and particularly, their nanomechanical properties. AFM images of such monolayers extracted at 30 mN m(-1) revealed a smooth and defect-free topography except for the POPE monolayer. Since scratching such soft monolayers in contact mode was proved unsuccessful, their molecular height was measured by means of the width of the jump present in the respective force-extension curves. While for pure POPC a small jump occurs near zero force, for the mixed monolayer with chi(POPC)=0.4 the jump occurs at approximately 800 pN. Widths of approximately 2 nm could be established for POPC and chi(POPC)=0.4, but not for POPE monolayer at this extracting pressure. Such different mechanical stability allowed us to directly measure the threshold area/lipid range value needed to induce mechanical stability to the monolayers. AFM imaging and FS were next applied to get further structural and mechanical insight into the POPE phase transition (LC-LC') occurring at pressures >36.5 mN m(-1). This phase transition was intimately related to a sudden decrease in the area/molecule value, resulting in a jump in the force curve occurring at high force ( approximately 1.72 nN). FS reveals to be the unique experimental technique able to unveil structural and nanomechanical properties for such soft phospholipid monolayers. The biological implications of the nanomechanical properties of the systems under investigation are discussed considering that the annular phospholipids region of some transmembrane proteins is enriched in POPE.