We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Dr Kislon Voitchovsky

Voïtchovsky, K., Antoranz Contera, M., Kamihira, M., Watts, A. & Ryan, J. F. (2006). Differential stiffness and lipid mobility in the leaflets of purple membranes. Biophysical Journal 90(6): 2075-2085.

Author(s) from Durham


Purple membranes (PM) are two-dimensional crystals formed by bacteriorhodopsin and a variety of lipids. The lipid composition and density in the cytoplasmic (CP) leaflet differ from those of the extracellular (EC) leaflet. A new way of differentiating the two sides of such asymmetric membranes using the phase signal in alternate contact atomic force microscopy is presented. This method does not require molecular resolution and is applied to study the stiffness and intertrimer lipid mobility in both leaflets of the PM independently over a broad range of pH and salt concentrations. PM stiffens with increasing salt concentration according to two different regimes. At low salt concentration, the membrane Young’s normal modulus grows quickly but differentially for the EC and CP leaflets. At higher salt concentration, both leaflets behave similarly and their stiffness converges toward the native environment value. Changes in pH do not affect PM stiffness; however, the crystal assembly is less pronounced at pH ≥ 10. Lipid mobility is high in the CP leaflet, especially at low salt concentration, but negligible in the EC leaflet regardless of pH or salt concentration. An independent lipid mobility study by solid-state NMR confirms and quantifies the atomic force microscopy qualitative observations.