Environmental conditions that influence the ability of humic acids to induce permeability in model biomembranes

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The interaction of humic acids (HAs) with 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-Sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) large unilamellar vesicle (LUV) model biomembrane system was studied by fluorescence spectroscopy. HAs from aquatic and terrestrial (including coal) sources were studied. The effects of HA concentration and temperature over environmentally relevant ranges of 0 to 20 mg C/L and 10 to 30 °C, respectively, were investigated. The dosage studies revealed that the aquatic Suwannee River humic acid (SRHA) causes an increased biomembrane perturbation (percent leakage of the fluorescent dye, Sulforhodamine B) over the entire studied concentration range. The two terrestrial HAs, namely Leonardite humic acid (LAHA) and Florida peat humic acid (FPHA), at concentrations above 5 mg C/L, show a decrease or a plateau effect attributable to the competition within the HA mixture and/or the formation of "partial aggregates". The temperature studies revealed that biomembrane perturbation increases with decreasing temperature for all three HAs. Kinetic studies showed that the membrane perturbation process is complex with both fast and slow absorption (sorption into the bilayer) components and that the slow component could be fitted by first order kinetics. A mechanism based on "lattice errors" within the POPC LUVs is put forward to explain the fast and slow components. A rationale behind the concentration and temperature findings is provided, and the environmental implications are discussed.

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Environmental science & technology

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