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The molecular structure of lecithin dihydrate


Lecithin is a major structural component of biological membranes1,2. Because of their amphipathic nature, lecithin and related phospholipids tend to aggregate as bilayer structures in which the hydrophilic head groups are orientated towards the surface and the hydrophobic hydrocarbon chains towards the interior. A detailed knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of lecithins will aid in the understanding of their role in membrane structure and function, but is still lacking. To this end we have now crystallised and solved the molecular structure of 1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphorylcholine (DMPC), a lecithin species in the naturally occurring configuration. This compound crystallises from a water-containing solution, with two water molecules (5% w/w) of hydration.

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Pearson, R., Pascher, I. The molecular structure of lecithin dihydrate. Nature 281, 499–501 (1979).

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