X-ray diffraction analysis has been performed on a series of 1-palmitoyl-2-dibromostearoyl-phosphatidylcholines (BRPCs) with bromine atoms at the 6, 7-, the 11, 12-, or the 15, 16-positions on the sn-2 acyl chains. The diffraction patterns indicate that, when hydrated, each of these lipids forms liquid-crystalline bilayers at 20 degrees C. For each lipid, electron density profiles and continuous Fourier transforms were calculated by the use of swelling experiments. In the electron profiles, high-density peaks, due to the bromine atoms, are observed. The separation between these bromine peaks in the profile decreases as the bromine atoms are moved toward the terminal methyl of the acyl chain. For the 6, 7- and 11, 12-bromolipids, experimental Fourier transforms can be approximated by the sum of the transform of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine (POPC) and the transform of two symmetrically placed peaks of electron density (the bromines). For the case of the 15, 16-bromolipids, a better fit is obtained for the transforms of a model bilayer where the thickness of the methylene chain region of the bilayer is 3 A greater than that of POPC. Our analysis indicates the following: for each of these bromolipids, the bromines are well localized in the bilayer; the distance of the bromines from the head-group-hydrocarbon boundary are 3.5, 8.0, and 14 A, for 6, 7-, 11, 12-, and 15, 16-BRPC, respectively; the bilayer thickness and perturbation to bilayer hydrocarbon chain packing caused by the bromine atoms depend on the position of the bromines on the hydrocarbon chain.