Dehydration of biological membranes by cooling: an investigation on the purple membrane.

Research paper by R E RE Lechner, J J Fitter, N A NA Dencher, T T Hauss

Indexed on: 23 May '98Published on: 23 May '98Published in: Journal of Molecular Biology


The lamellar spacing dl of purple membrane (PM) multilayer systems was investigated with neutron diffraction as a function of temperature and of the level of hydration. The observed large T-dependent variations of dl indicate that PM is partially dehydrated when cooled below a "hydration water freezing point". This phenomenon is reversible, but a hysteresis is observed when PM is rehydrated upon reheating. The hydration water remaining bound to the membrane below about 240 K is non-freezing. Its amount was found to be hnf=0.24(+/-0.02) g 2H2O/g BR for all samples equilibrated at room temperature in the presence of 2H2O vapour at >/=84% r.h. It is evident, that the dehydration/rehydration behaviour of PM is strongly correlated with the temperature-dependent behaviour of the dynamical structure factor. Above the well-known "dynamical transition" announcing the onset of localized diffusive molecular motions between 190 K and 230 K, a second dynamical transition is caused by the temperature-induced rehydration of the PM starting near 255 K. This is also correlated with the deviation from a pure Arrhenius law of the rate-limiting process in the photocycle, known to occur upon cooling beyond the ice point into the same temperature region. Our results suggest that the phenomenon of dehydration and rehydration induced by cooling and reheating, respectively, is a general property of biological membranes.