Suppression of Lα/Lβ Phase Coexistence in the Lipids of Pulmonary Surfactant

Jonathan R. Fritz, Ryan W. Loney, Stephen B. Hall, Stephanie Tristram-Nagle

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3 Scopus citations


To determine how different constituents of pulmonary surfactant affect its phase behavior, we measured wide-angle x-ray scattering (WAXS) from oriented bilayers. Samples contained the nonpolar and phospholipids (N&PL) obtained from calf lung surfactant extract (CLSE), which also contains the hydrophobic surfactant proteins SP-B and SP-C. Mixtures with different ratios of N&PL and CLSE provided the same set of lipids with different amounts of the proteins. At 37°C, N&PL by itself forms coexisting Lα and Lβ phases. In the Lβ structure, the acyl chains of the phospholipids occupy an ordered array that has melted by 40°C. This behavior suggests that the Lβ composition is dominated by dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC), which is the most prevalent component of CLSE. The Lβ chains, however, lack the tilt of the Lβ′ phase formed by pure DPPC. At 40°C, WAXS also detects an additional diffracted intensity, the location of which suggests a correlation among the phospholipid headgroups. The mixed samples of N&PL with CLSE show that increasing amounts of the proteins disrupt both the Lβ phase and the headgroup correlation. With physiological levels of the proteins in CLSE, both types of order are absent. These results with bilayers at physiological temperatures indicate that the hydrophobic surfactant proteins disrupt the ordered structures that have long been considered essential for the ability of pulmonary surfactant to sustain low surface tensions. They agree with prior fluorescence micrographic results from monomolecular films of CLSE, suggesting that at physiological temperatures, any ordered phase is likely to be absent or occupy a minimal interfacial area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-253
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 19 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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