Probing the micelle/water interface by rapid laser-induced proton pulse

Menachem Gutman, Dan Huppert, Ehud Pines, Ester Nachliel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The laser-induced pH jump (Gutman, M. and Huppert, D.J. (1979) Biochem. Biophys. Methods 1, 9-19) has a time resolution capable of measuring the diffusion-controlled rate constant of proton binding. In the present study we employed this technique for measuring the kinetics of protonation-deprotonation of surface groups of macromolecules. The heterogeneous surface of proteins excludes them from serving as a simple model, therefore we used micelles of a neutral detergent (Brij 58) as a high molecular weight structure. The charge was varied by the addition of a low concentration of sodium dodecyl sulfate and the surface group with which the protons react was an adsorbed pH indicator (bromocresol green or neutral red). The dissociation of a proton from adsorbed bromocresol green is slower than that from free indicator. This effect is attributed to the enhanced stabilization of the acid form of the indicator in the pallisade region of the micelle. The pK shift of bromocresol green adsorbed on neutral micelles is thus quantitatively accounted for by the decreased rate of proton dissociation. Indicators such as neutral red, which are more lipid soluble in their alkaline form, do not exhibit such decelerated proton dissociation in their adsorbed state nor a pK shift on adsorption to neutral micelles. The protonation of an indicator is a diffusion-controlled reaction, whether it is free in solution or adsorbed on micelles. By varying the electric charge of the micelle this rate can be accelerated or decelerated depending on the total charge of the micelle. The micellar charge calculated from this method was corroborated by other measurements which rely only on equilibrium parameters. The high time resulation of the pH jump is exemplified by the ability to estimate the diffusion coefficient of protons through the hydrated shell of the micelle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Mar 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • Micelle/water interface
  • Neutral detergent
  • Proton binding
  • Surface group
  • pH jump

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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