We measured the transbilayer diffusion of 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) in large unilamellar vesicles, in both the gel (Lβ′) and fluid (Lα) phases. The choline resonance of headgroup-protiated DPPC exchanged into the outer leaflet of headgroup-deuterated DPPC-d13 vesicles was monitored using 1H NMR spectroscopy, coupled with the addition of a paramagnetic shift reagent. This allowed us to distinguish between the inner and outer bilayer leaflet of DPPC, to determine the flip-flop rate as a function of temperature. Flip-flop of fluid-phase DPPC exhibited Arrhenius kinetics, from which we determined an activation energy of 122 kJ mol-1. In gel-phase DPPC vesicles, flip-flop was not observed over the course of 250 h. Our findings are in contrast to previous studies of solid-supported bilayers, where the reported DPPC translocation rates are at least several orders of magnitude faster than those in vesicles at corresponding temperatures. We reconcile these differences by proposing a defect-mediated acceleration of lipid translocation in supported bilayers, where long-lived, submicron-sized holes resulting from incomplete surface coverage are the sites of rapid transbilayer movement.
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Marquardt, Drew; Heberle, Frederick A.; Miti, Tatiana; Eicher, Barbara; London, Erwin; Katsaras, John; and Pabst, Georg. (2017). 1H NMR Shows Slow Phospholipid Flip-Flop in Gel and Fluid Bilayers. Langmuir, 33 (15), 3731-3741.