The effect of pH on the topography of porphyrins in lipid membranes

Irena Bronshtein, Kevin M. Smith, Benjamin Ehrenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The effect of the acidity of the environment on the topography and photophysics of sensitizer molecules in homogeneous solutions, and when embedded in a lipid microenvironment, was studied. Four hematoporphyrin (HP) analogs were studied, which have chemical "spacers" of varying lengths between the cbromopnoric tetrapyrrole and the carboxylate moiety. These derivatives have essentially the same chemical attributes and reactivity as the parent compound, HP IX, which is used in clinical procedures of photodynamic therapy. The binding constants of these HP derivatives to membrane model systems increase with the length of carboxylate chain in the pH range 3.0-6.6. This effect of chain length is attributed to an increase in the hydrophobicity of the molecule on elongation of the alkyl chains. A strong pH dependence of the quenching efficiency of the porphyrins' fluorescence by iodide ions was observed in aqueous solution and is attributed to a unique electrostatic interaction between the fluorophore and the quencher. The quenching efficiency in liposomes, relative to the quenching in buffer, as a function of pH, shows that porphyrins in the neutral form penetrate deeper inside the lipid bilayer and are less exposed to external quenching than when negatively charged at the carboxylic moiety. This vertical displacement in the membrane is also evidenced in the effect of pH on the photosensitized oxidation efficiency of a membrane-bound chemical target Increasing the pH causes a significant decrease in the sensitization efficiency in liposomes. This trend is attributed to the vertical localization, and protonation of the carboxylic groups on lowering the pH leads to sinking of the sensitizer into the lipid bilayer and to a consequent generation of singlet oxygen at a deeper point. This increases the dwell time of singlet oxygen within the bilayer, which results in greater photodamage to a membrane-residing singlet oxygen target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-451
Number of pages6
JournalPhotochemistry and Photobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of pH on the topography of porphyrins in lipid membranes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this