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Dielectric analysis of phosphorylcholine head group mobility in egg lecithin liposomes

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • G Smith
  • BY Shekunov
  • J Shen
  • AP Duffy
  • J Anwar
  • MG Wakerly
  • R Chakrabarti
Journal publication date08/1996
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Number of pages5
Original languageEnglish


Purpose. A knowledge of the interfacial properties of lecithin underpins our understanding of many of the physicochemical characteristics of drug delivery systems such as liposomes and lecithin stabilized microemulsions. In order to further this understanding, a high frequency dielectric study of the interfacial properties of egg lecithin liposomes was undertaken.

Methods. The effect of temperature, lecithin concentration and probe sonication on the interfacial dielectric properties of liposomal suspensions was investigated by high frequency dielectric relaxation spectroscopy between 0.2-6 GHz.

Results. The frequency dependent permittivity of each suspension exhibited a dielectric dispersion centred around 100 MHz, corresponding to the relaxation of zwitterionic head groups. The activation energy for head group reorientation was estimated as Delta H = 6.3 kT mol(-1). There was an increase in extent of inter-head group interactions on increasing the liposome volume fraction, whereas the effect of probe sonication showed that: (i) head groups in both the outer and inner lamellae contribute to the dielectric response; (ii) the head groups may be less restricted in liposomes of high surface curvature with few lamellae; (iii) the high frequency permittivity of the suspension increased on sonication, as a result of a reduction in the amount of (depolarized) interlamellar water following a reduction in the number of lamellae per liposome.

Conclusions, Dielectric analysis of the zwitterionic head groups of lecithin therefore provides a means for investigating the surface of lecithin liposomes, and may be used to investigate the effect of drugs and other solutes on membranes.