Cellular membranes are surrounded by an aqueous buffer solution containing various ions, which influence the hydration layer of the lipid head groups. At the same time, water molecules hydrating the lipids play a major role in facilitating the organisation and dynamics of membrane lipids. Employing fluorescence microscopy imaging and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching measurements, we demonstrate that the cooperativity between water and sodium (Na+) ions is crucial to maintain lipid mobility upon the removal of the outer hydration layer of the lipid membrane. At similar hydration conditions, lipid diffusion ceases in absence of Na+ ions. We unravel that Na+ ions strengthen the water clathrate cage around the lipid phosphocholine head group and thus prevent its breaking upon removal of bulk water. Intriguingly, divalent cation Ca2+ does not show this effect. In this article we provide a detailed molecular-level picture of ion specific dependence of lipid mobility and membrane hydration properties.
Experimental procedures, supplementary notes and figures.