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Aqueous Solutions at the Interface with Phospholipid Bilayers

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Original title:Aqueous Solutions at the Interface with Phospholipid Bilayers
Authors:M. L. Berkowitz, Robert Vácha
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Original language:English
Field:Neurology, neurosurgery, neurosciences
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Type:Article in Periodical

In a sense, life is defined by membranes, because they delineate the barrier between the living cell and its surroundings. Membranes are also essential for regulating the machinery of life throughout many interfaces within the cell's interior. A large number of experimental, computational, and theoretical studies have demonstrated how the properties of water and ionic aqueous solutions change due to the vicinity of membranes and, in turn, how the properties of membranes depend on the presence of aqueous solutions. Consequently, understanding the character of aqueous solutions at their interface with biological membranes is critical to research progress on many fronts. The importance of incorporating a molecular-level description of water into the study of biomembrane surfaces was demonstrated by an examination of the interaction between phospholipid bilayers that can serve as model biological membranes. The results showed that, in addition to well-known forces, such as van der Waals and screened Coulomb, one has to consider a repulsion force due to the removal of water between surfaces. It was also known that physicochemical properties of biological membranes are strongly influenced by the specific character of the ions in the surrounding aqueous solutions because of the observation that different anions produce different effects on muscle twitch tension. In this Account, we describe the interaction of pure water, and also of aqueous ionic solutions, with model membranes. We show that a symbiosis of experimental and computational work over the past few years has resulted in substantial progress in the field. We now better understand the origin of the hydration force, the structural properties of water at the interface with phospholipid bilayers, and the influence of phospholipid headgroups on the dynamics of water. We also improved our knowledge of the ion-specific effect, which is observed at the interface of the phospholipid bilayer and aqueous solution, and its connection with the Hofmeister series.