A partial phase diagram of the ternary system dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE)/sodium cholate/water has been determined using 31P Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. In the absence of cholate, it is well known that the DOPE/water system forms a reversed hexagonal (HII) phase. We have found that addition of even small amounts of cholate to the DOPE/water system leads to a transition to a lamellar (L alpha) phase. At higher cholate concentrations, a cubic (I) phase (low water content) or a micellar solution (L1) phase (high water content) is present. Thus, cholate molecules have a strong tendency to alter the lipid monolayer curvature. Increasing the concentration of cholate changes the curvature of DOPE from negative (HII phase), through zero (L alpha phase), and finally to a phase of positive curvature (micellar solution). This observation can be rationalized in terms of the molecular structure of cholate, which is amphipathic and has one hydrophobic and one hydrophilic side of the steroid ring system. The cholate molecules have a tendency to lie flat on the lipid aggregate surface, thereby increasing the effective interfacial area of the polar head groups, and altering the curvature free energy of the system.
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