We have utilized Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to study the interaction of the antimicrobial peptide gramicidin S (GS) with lipid micelles and with lipid monolayer and bilayer membranes as a function of temperature and of the phase state of the lipid. Since the conformation of GS does not change under the experimental conditions employed in this study, we could utilize the dependence of the frequency of the amide I band of the central β-sheet region of this peptide on the polarity and hydrogen-bonding potential of its environment to probe GS interaction with and location in these lipid model membrane systems. We find that the GS is completely or partially excluded from the gel states of all of the lipid bilayers examined in this study but strongly partitions into lipid micelles, monolayers, or bilayers in the liquid-crystalline state. Moreover, in general, the penetration of GS into zwitterionic and uncharged lipid bilayer coincides closely with the gel to liquid-crystalline phase transition of the lipid. However, GS begins to penetrate into the gel-state bilayers of anionic phospholipids prior to the actual chain-melting phase transition, while in cationic lipid bilayers, GS does not partition strongly into the liquid- crystalline bilayer until temperatures well above the chain-melting phase transition are reached. In the liquid-crystalline state, the polarity of the environment of GS indicates that this peptide is located primarily at the polar/apolar interfacial region of the bilayer near the glycerol backbone region of the lipid molecule. However, the depth of GS penetration into this interfacial region can vary somewhat depending on the structure and charge of the lipid molecule. In general, GS associates most strongly with and penetrates most deeply into more disordered bilayers with a negative surface charge, although the detailed chemical structure of the lipid molecule and physical organization of the lipid aggregate (micelle versus monolayer versus bilayer) also have minor effects on these processes.
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