Structure of vesicles formed from non-ionic dialkylglycerol poly(oxyethylene) ether surfactants: effect of electrolyte and cholesterol

R. D. Harvey, D. J. Barlow, A. P. R. Brain, R. K. Heenan, S. Zuberi, T. Zuberi, Margaret Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Five non-ionic dialkylglycerol poly(oxyethylene) ether surfactants, designated 2C(m)E(n) (where m, the number of carbons in each alkyl chain = 16 or 18, and n, the number of oxyethylene units = 12, 16 or 17) have been examined for their ability to form vesicles when dispersed in water or in an aqueous solution of 154 mM NaCl, alone or in the presence of 50 mol% cholesterol. Freeze fracture electron microscopy and light scattering showed that regardless of the hydrating fluid, all the non-ionic surfactants, with the exception of 2C(16)E(17) and 2C(18)E(17), formed vesicles in the absence of cholesterol - 2C(16)E(17) and 2C(18)E(17) instead formed micellar aggregates. All surfactants, however, formed vesicles in the presence of 50 mol% cholesterol. Small angle neutron scattering studies of the surfactant vesicles enabled the bilayer thickness and repeat distance (d-spacing) to be determined. The bilayers formed by all the non-ionic surfactants in the absence of cholesterol were surprisingly thin (similar to 50 angstrom for the E-12 containing surfactants and similar to 64 angstrom for 2C(18)E(16)) most likely due to the intrusion of oxyethylene groups into the hydrophobic core of the bilayers. In contrast, however, the non-ionic surfactants exhibited a relatively large d-spacing of around similar to 130-150 angstrom. The addition of 50 mol% cholesterol had a dramatic effect on the thickness of the vesicle bilayer, increasing its size by 10-20 angstrom, most probably because of an extrusion of oxyethylene from the hydrophobic region of the bilayer and/or a reduction in the tilt on the surfactant alkyl chains. Additionally the presence of cholesterol in a vesicle tended to reduce slightly both the d-spacing and the thickness of the water layer separating the bilayers. The presence of NaCl, even at the low concentrations used in the study, did affect the properties of the bilayer such that it reduced the d-spacing and, in the case of cholesterol-containing systems, also reduced bilayer thickness. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341 - 350
Number of pages10
JournalChemistry and Physics of Lipids
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Structure of vesicles formed from non-ionic dialkylglycerol poly(oxyethylene) ether surfactants: effect of electrolyte and cholesterol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this