1. Distearoyl phosphatidylcholine and the phosphonium analogue, in which the nitrogen atom is replaced by phosphorus, show similar gel-liquid crystalline transition temperatures as detected by differential scanning calorimetry. 2. The temperature-dependence of the 31P n.m.r. (nuclear-magnetic-resonance) linewidths of the phosphate resonances of sonicated vesicles of distearoyl phosphatidylcholine and the phosphonium analogue are similar. Below the phase-transition temperature the linewidths decrease as the temperature is raised. Above the phase-transition temperature the phosphate resonances are relatively temperature-independent. The phosphonium 31P n.m.r. signal exhibits the same pattern of temperature-dependence. 3. The 31P n.m.r. phosphonium resonance is sensitive to the paramagnetic shift reagent, K3Fe(CN)6. Use of K3Fe(CN)6, together with Nd(NO3)3, enabled the determination of the trans-bilayer distribution of egg-yolk phosphatidylcholine and its phosphonium analogue in co-sonicated vesicles. Both are distributed comparably across the bilayer of the vesicles. 4. The phosphonium 31P n.m.r. signal is much sharper than the corresponding phosphate resonance in both sonicated and unsonicated dispersions of the phosphatidylcholine analogue. 5. The properties of the phosphonium analogue of phosphatidylcholine are discussed in terms of its suitability as a probe of membrane structure.

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