Sensing small molecule interactions with lipid membranes by local pH modulation

Da Huang, Tao Zhao, Wei Xu, Tinglu Yang, Paul S. Cremer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Herein, we utilized a label-free sensing platform based on pH modulation to detect the interactions between tetracaine, a positively charged small molecule used as a local anesthetic, and planar supported lipid bilayers (SLBs). The SLBs were patterned inside a flow cell, allowing for various concentrations of tetracaine to be introduced over the surface in a buffer solution. Studies with membranes containing POPC (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine) yielded an equilibrium dissociation constant value of Kd = 180 ± 47 μm for this small molecule-membrane interaction. Adding cholesterol to the SLBs decreased the affinity between tetracaine and the bilayers, while this interaction tightened when POPE (1-hexadecanoyl-2-(9-Z- octadecenoyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine) was added. Studies were also conducted with three negatively charged membrane lipids, POPG (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-(1′-rac-glycerol) (sodium salt)), POPS (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-l-serine (sodium salt)), and ganglioside GM1. All three measurements gave rise to a similar tightening of the apparent Kd value compared with pure POPC membranes. The lack of chemical specificity with the identity of the negatively charged lipid indicated that the tightening was largely electrostatic. Through a direct comparison with ITC measurements, it was found that the pH modulation sensor platform offers a facile, inexpensive, highly sensitive, and rapid method for the detection of interactions between putative drug candidates and lipid bilayers. As such, this technique may potentially be exploited as a screen for drug development and analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10240-10248
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 5 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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