High molecular weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (HMW-PAHs) are persistent organic pollutants which due to their limited biodegradability accumulate in soils where their increased presence can lead to the impoverishment of the decomposer organisms. As very hydrophobic PAHs easily penetrate cellular membranes of soil bacteria and can be incorporated therein, changing the membrane fluidity and other functions which in consequence can lead to the death of the organism. The structure and size of PAH molecule can be crucial for its membrane activity; however the correlation between PAH structure and its interaction with phospholipids have not been investigated so far. In our studies we applied phospholipid Langmuir monolayers as model bacterial membranes and investigated how the incorporation of six structurally different PAH molecules change the membrane texture and physical properties. In our studies we registered surface pressure and surface potential isotherms upon the monolayer compression, visualized the monolayer texture with the application of Brewster angle microscopy and searched the ordering of the film-forming molecules with molecular resolution with the application of grazing incidence X-ray diffraction (GIXD) method. It turned out that the phospholipid-PAH interactions are strictly structure dependent. Four and five-ring PAHs of the angular or cluster geometry can be incorporated into the model membranes changing profoundly their textures and fluidity; whereas linear or large cluster PAHs cannot be incorporated and separate from the lipid matrix. The observed phenomena were explained based on structural similarities of the applied PAHs with membrane steroids and hopanoids.
Broniatowski, M., Binczycka, M., Wójcik, A., Flasiński, M., & Wydro, P. (2017). Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in model bacterial membranes – Langmuir monolayer studies. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes, 1859(12), 2402–2412. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbamem.2017.09.017