Kinetics of the main phase transition of hydrated lecithin monitored by real-time X-ray diffraction

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A method is described for observing and recording in real-time x-ray diffraction from an unoriented hydrated membrane lipid, dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC), through its thermotropic gel/liquid crystal phase transition. Synchrotron radiation from the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (Ithaca, New York) was used as an x-ray source of extremely high brilliance and the dynamic display of the diffraction image was effected using a three-stage image intensifier tube coupled to an external fluorescent screen. The image on the output phosphor was sufficiently intense to be recorded cinematographically and to be displayed on a television monitor using a vidicon camera at 30 frames X s1. These measurements set an upper limit of 2 s on the DPPC gel----liquid crystal phase transition and indicate that the transition is a two-state process. The real-time method couples the power of x-ray diffraction as a structural probe with the ability to follow kinetics of structural changes. The method does not require an exogenous probe, is relatively nonperturbing, and can be used with membranes in a variety of physical states and with unstable samples. The method has the additional advantage over its static measurement counterpart in that it is more likely to detect transiently stable intermediates if present. © 1984, The Biophysical Society. All rights reserved.




Caffrey, M., & Bilderback, D. H. (1984). Kinetics of the main phase transition of hydrated lecithin monitored by real-time X-ray diffraction. Biophysical Journal, 45(3), 627–631.

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