Monitoring oxygen-sensitive membranes and vitamin E as an antioxidant

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Characterization of Biological Membranes: Structure and Dynamics

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The investigation of biomembrane mimics already possesses significant technical hurdles without considering the bilayer's susceptibility to reactive oxygen species. Phospholipids that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are highly susceptible to oxidative damage due to reactive oxygen species. PUFA's vulnerability to oxidation creates unique biological and technical problems, both structurally and in terms of bioavailability. Structurally, PUFA oxidation products can grossly alter the physical properties of a bilayer, which can ultimately lead to the malfunction of integral proteins. In terms of bioavailability, PUFAs can only be obtained through dietary consumption; therefore, there must be a mechanism for PUFA preservation, such as the inclusion of antioxidants into the bilayer. We highlight the need for a physical understanding of the oxidation/antioxidant relation through a case study of vitamin E. Vitamin E correlates strongly with its physical location in a model lipid bilayer which has been overlooked due to the problem of the physical distance between the vitamin's reducing hydrogen and lipid acyl chain radicals. Our case study demonstrates the need for combined data from complimentary techniques (neutron diffraction, NMR, and UV spectroscopy) to probe the physiochemical nature of vitamin E. Ultimately, measurements of PUFA and antioxidant oxidation kinetics, and products, should be interpreted by taking into consideration the physical properties of the membrane in which the PUFA and antioxidant reside.