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Journal of Physical Chemistry B


In addition to obtaining the highly precise volumes of lipids in lipid bilayers, it has been desirable to obtain the volumes of parts of each lipid, such as the methylenes and terminal methyls on the hydrocarbon chains and the head group. Obtaining such component volumes from experiment and from simulations is re-examined, first by distinguishing methods based on apparent versus partial molar volumes. Although somewhat different, both these methods give results that are counterintuitive and that differ from results obtained by a more local method that can only be applied to simulations. These comparisons reveal differences in the average methylene component volume that result in larger differences in the head group component volumes. Literature experimental volume data for unsaturated phosphocholines and for alkanes have been used and new data have been acquired for saturated phosphocholines. Data and simulations cover extended ranges of temperature to assess both the temperature and chain length dependence of the component volumes. A new method to refine the determination of component volumes is proposed that uses experimental data for different chain lengths at temperatures guided by the temperature dependence determined in simulations. These refinements enable more precise comparisons of the component volumes of different lipids and alkanes in different phases. Finally, the notion of free volume is extended to components using the Lennard-Jones radii to estimate the excluded volume of each component. This analysis reveals that head group free volumes are relatively independent of thermodynamic phase, whereas both the methylene and methyl free volumes increase dramatically when bilayers transition from gel to fluid.

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