Stability, flow alignment and a phase transition of the lipidic cubic phase during continuous flow injection

J Colloid Interface Sci. 2022 Apr:611:588-598. doi: 10.1016/j.jcis.2021.12.110. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Continuous flow injection is a key technology for serial crystallography measurements of protein crystals suspended in the lipidic cubic phase (LCP). To date, there has been little discussion in the literature regarding the impact of the injection process itself on the structure of the lipidic phase. This is despite the fact that the phase of the injection matrix is critical for the flow properties of the stream and potentially for sample stability. Here we report small-angle X-ray scattering measurements of a monoolein:water mixture during continuous delivery using a high viscosity injector. We observe both an alignment and modification of the LCP as a direct result of the injection process. The orientation of the cubic lattice with respect to the beam was estimated based on the anisotropy of the diffraction pattern and does not correspond to a single low order zone axis. The solvent fraction was also observed to impact the stability of the cubic phase during injection. In addition, depending on the distance traveled by the lipid after exiting the needle, the phase is observed to transition from a pure diamond phase (Pn3m) to a mixture containing both gyriod (Ia3d) and lamellar (Lα) phases. Finite element modelling of the observed phase behaviour during injection indicates that the pressure exerted on the lipid stream during extrusion accounts for the variations in the phase composition of the monoolein:water mixture.

Keywords: FEM modelling; Flow simulation; High viscosity injection; Lipid cubic phases; Liquid crystals; Membrane structure; Monoolein; Phase transitions; Pressure; SAXS; Viscosity.

MeSH terms

  • Lipids*
  • Phase Transition
  • Water*
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Lipids
  • Water