Water at the surfaces of aligned phospholipid multibilayer model membranes probed with ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy

J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Oct 22;130(42):13927-37. doi: 10.1021/ja803252y. Epub 2008 Sep 30.


The dynamics of water at the surface of artificial membranes composed of aligned multibilayers of the phospholipid dilauroyl phosphatidylcholine (DLPC) are probed with ultrafast polarization selective vibrational pump-probe spectroscopy. The experiments are performed at various hydration levels, x = 2 - 16 water molecules per lipid at 37 degrees C. The water molecules are approximately 1 nm above or below the membrane surface. The experiments are conducted on the OD stretching mode of dilute HOD in H 2O to eliminate vibrational excitation transfer. The FT-IR absorption spectra of the OD stretch in the DLPC bilayer system at low hydration levels shows a red-shift in frequency relative to bulk water, which is in contrast to the blue-shift often observed in systems such as water nanopools in reverse micelles. The spectra for x = 4 - 16 can be reproduced by a superposition of the spectra for x = 2 and bulk water. IR Pump-probe measurements reveal that the vibrational population decays (lifetimes) become longer as the hydration level is decreased. The population decays are fit well by biexponential functions. The population decays, measured as a function of the OD stretch frequency, suggest the existence of two major types of water molecules in the interfacial region of the lipid bilayers. One component may be a clathrate-like water cluster near the hydrophobic choline group and the other may be related to the hydration water molecules mainly associated with the phosphate group. As the hydration level increases, the vibrational lifetimes of these two components decrease, suggesting a continuous evolution of the hydration structures in the two components associated with the swelling of the bilayers. The agreement of the magnitudes of the two components obtained from IR spectra with those from vibrational lifetime measurements further supports the two-component model. The vibrational population decay fitting also gives an estimation of the number of phosphate-associated water molecules and choline-associated water molecules, which range from 1 to 4 and 1 to 12, respectively, as x increases from 2 to 16. Time-dependent anisotropy measurements yield the rate of orientational relaxation as a function of x. The anisotropy decay is biexponential. The fast component is almost independent of x, and is interpreted as small orientational fluctuations that occur without hydrogen-bond rearrangement. The slower component becomes very long as the hydration level decreases. This component is a measure of the rate of complete orientational randomization, which requires H-bond rearrangement and is discussed in terms of a jump reorientation model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry*
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / methods
  • Spectrum Analysis / instrumentation
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods
  • Surface Properties
  • Time Factors
  • Vibration
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Water
  • 1,2-dilauroylphosphatidylcholine