Incoherent Neutron Spin-Echo Spectroscopy as an Option to Study Long-Range Lipid Diffusion Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Diffusion is the fundamental mechanism for lipids and other molecules to move in a membrane. It is an important process to consider in modelling the formation of membrane structures, such as rafts. Lipid diffusion is mainly studied by two different techniques: incoherent neutron scattering and fluorescence microscopy. Both techniques access distinctly different length scales. While neutron scattering measures diffusion over about 3 lipid diameters, microscopic techniques access motions of lipids over micrometer distances. The diffusion constants which are determined by these two methods often differ by about an order of magnitude, with the neutrons usually seeing a faster lipid diffusion. Different theories are used to describe lipid diffusion in the two experiments. In order to close the “gap” between these two techniques, we propose to study lipid diffusion at mesoscopic length scales using a neutron spin-echo (NSE) spectrometer. We have conducted an experiment in highly oriented, solid supported lipid bilayers to prove the feasibility of performing incoherent NSE on biological samples. Lateral lipid diffusion was measured in a fluid phase model membrane system at a length scale of 12 Å. Using the high-energy resolution of the NSE technique, we find evidence for two dynamic processes.


  • Armstrong, Clare L
  • Toppozini, Laura
  • Dies, Hannah
  • Faraone, Antonio
  • Nagao, Michihiro
  • Rheinstadter, Maikel

publication date

  • March 31, 2013