Fluoresence spectral features of 6-propionyl-2-dimethylaminonaphthalene (Prodan) in phospholipid vesicles of different phase states are investigated. Like the spectra of 6-lauroyl-2-dimethylaminonaphthalene (Laurdan), the steady-state excitation and emission spectra of Prodan are sensitive to the polarity of the environment, showing a relevant shift due to the dipolar relaxation phenomenon. Because of the different lengths of their acyl residues, the partitioning of the two probes between water and the membrane bilayer differs profoundly. To account for the contribution of Prodan flourescence arising from water, we introduce a three-wavelength generalized polarization method that makes it possible to separate the spectral properties of Prodan in the lipid phase and in water, and to determine the probe partitioning between phospholipid and water and between the gel and the liquid-crystalline phases of phospholipids. In contrast to Laurdan, Prodan preferentially partitions in the liquid-crystalline phase with respect to the gel and is sensitive to the polar head pretransition, and its partition coefficient between the membrane and water depends on the phase state, i.e., on the packing of the bilayer. Prodan is sensitive to polarity variations occurring closer to the bilayer surface than those detected by Laurdan.
Krasnowska, E. K., Gratton, E., & Parasassi, T. (1998). Prodan as a membrane surface fluorescence probe: Partitioning between water and phospholipid phases. Biophysical Journal, 74(4), 1984–1993. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(98)77905-6