A hydrophobic pulmonary surfactant protein, SP-C, has been implicated in surface-associated activities thought to facilitate the work of breathing. Model surfactant films composed of lipids and SP-C display a reversible transition from a monolayer to surface-associated multilayers upon compression and expansion at the air/water (A/W) interface. The molecular-level mechanics of this process are not yet fully understood. The current work uses atomic force microscopy on Langmuir-Blodgett films to verify the formation of multilayers in a dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine, dipalmitoylphosphatidylglycerol, cholesterol, and SP-C model system. Isotherms of SP-C-containing films are consistent with exclusion and essentially complete respreading during compression and expansion, respectively. Multilayer formation was not detected in the absence of SP-C. Most notable are the results from IR reflection-absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS) conducted at the A/W interface, where the position and intensity of the Amide I band of SP-C reveal that the predominantly helical structure changes its orientation in monolayers versus multilayers. IRRAS measurements indicate that the helix tilt angle changed from approximately 80deg;in monolayers to a transmembrane orientation in multilayers. The results constitute the first quantitative measure of helix orientation in mixed monolayer/multilamellar domains at the A/W interface and provide insight into the molecular mechanism for SP-C-facilitated respreading of surfactant.
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