Polymerizable surfactant design for transmission electron microscopy

Joseph A.N. Zasadzinski, Paul C. Vosejpka, Wilmer G. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Polymerized liposomes and vesicles are under close scrutiny as long-lived, stable substitutes for their natural and synthetic unpolymerized counterparts. The monomer surfactant, which contains one or more polymerizable groups, is dispersed in water at the proper temperature and concentration to form the lyotropic liquid crystalline phase of interest and polymerized while in the liquid crystalline state. In addition to their applications to slow-release and site-specific drug delivery, membrane-mediated chemistry, artificial photosynthesis, etc., polymerized surfactant liposomes and vesicles hold great promise as model systems for TEM investigations of lamellar liquid crystal structure. One such model polymerizable surfactant is DBPAl, or N,N-dimethyl-N,N-bis(1,3-pentadecadienyl-carbonyloxyethyl) ammonium iodide. Polarized light microscopy and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) confirm that DBPAI forms lamellar liquid crystalline liposomes in water. The DBPAI liposomes were polymerized while in the liquid crystalline state by ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. The DBPAI liposomes were shown to be identical in structure before and after polymerization by a combination of X-ray diffraction and freeze-fracture TEM. However, turbidity measurements showed that the polymerized DBPAI liposomes were much more stable in acetone and ethanol than the monomer DBPAI liposomes, demonstrating that the chemical nature of the surfactant in the liposome had changed. The combination of structural preservation and enhanced chemical stability makes DBPAI a natural choice for TEM thin-sections. A method of preparing DBPAI liposomes for thin-section TEM is outlined and bilayer resolution images of the DBPAI liposomes are presented. Polymerized bilayers in thin-section TEM promise the enhanced resolution required to answer many important structural questions left unresolved by freeze-fracture TEM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-362
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Colloid And Interface Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1986


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