The organization of lipids in membranes. Nuclear magnetic resonance and neutron diffraction studies

  • Joachim Seelig
Stark Strukturierte Systeme
Part of the Progress in Colloid & Polymer Science book series (PROGCOLLOID, volume 65)


The principal features of deuterium and phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance and neutron scattering as applied to the study of biomembranes are described. An obvious advantage in these experiments is the use of selectively deuterated lipids allowing an unambiguous assignment and straightforward quantitative evaluation of the spectra. Our results show that zwitterionic lipids (phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine) are characterized by very similar conformations in the membrane. In particular, the zwitterionic dipole groups are aligned parallel to the membrane surface, the glycerol backbone is perpendicular to this plane, and the hydrocarbon chains are out of step by 1.5 to 3 carbon-carbon bonds. The shift between the two fatty acyl chains is explained by the fact that one hydrocarbon chain is in straight conformation while the other is bent. The conformational state and the packing of saturated as well as cis-unsaturated hydrocarbon chains in lipid bilayers are discussed.


Head Group Hydrocarbon Chain Glycerol Backbone Fatty Acyl Chain Neutron Diffraction Study 
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Copyright information

© Dr. Dietrich Steinkopff Verlag GmbH & Co. KG 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Seelig
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biophysical ChemistryBiocenter of the University of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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