The interaction between lipid membranes and ions is associated with a range of key physiological processes. Most earlier studies have focused on the interaction of lipids with cations, while the specific effects of the anions have been largely overlooked. Owing to dissolved atmospheric carbon dioxide, bicarbonate is an important ubiquitous anion in aqueous media. In this paper, we report on the effect of bicarbonate anions on the interactions between dipolar lipid membranes in the presence of previously adsorbed calcium cations. Using a combination of solution X-ray scattering, osmotic stress, and molecular dynamics simulations, we followed the interactions between 1,2-didodecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DLPC) lipid membranes that were dialyzed against CaCl2 solutions in the presence and absence of bicarbonate anions. Calcium cations adsorbed onto DLPC membranes, charge them, and lead to their swelling. In the presence of bicarbonate anions, however, the calcium cations can tightly couple one dipolar DLPC membrane to the other and form a highly condensed and dehydrated lamellar phase with a repeat distance of 3.45 ± 0.02 nm. Similar tight condensation and dehydration has only been observed between charged membranes in the presence of multivalent counterions. Bridging between bilayers by calcium bicarbonate complexes induced this arrangement. Furthermore, in this condensed phase, lipid molecules and adsorbed ions were arranged in a two-dimensional oblique lattice.
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We are grateful to Cyrus Safinya, Monica Olivera de la Cruz, and Phil Pincus for helpful discussions. This project was supported by the Israel Science Foundation. C.A. thanks the Minerva foundation for a postdoctoral fellowship. L.F. thanks the Lev Tzion foundation for fellowship support and the Teacher-Scholars Program of the Hebrew University supported by the Jerusalem Municipality, JDA, and the Trump Foundation. We thank the Safra, Wolfson, and Rudin Foundations for supporting our laboratory. The Fritz Haber Center is supported by the Minerva Foundation, Munich, Germany.
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