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Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a very common molecule in biotic and abiotic aqueous environments. In both cases, variation of ionic strength is inevitable. In addition to the osmotic variation posed by such perturbations, the question of whether the interactions of monovalent ions Na+ and Cl-, especially with the neutral head groups of phospholipid membranes are impactful enough to change the membrane rigidity, is still not entirely understood. We investigated the dynamics of 1,2-di-(octadecenoyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) vesicles with zwitterionic neutral head groups in the fluid phase with increasing external salt concentration. At higher salt concentrations, we observe an increase in bending rigidity from neutron spin echo (NSE) spectroscopy and an increase in bilayer thickness from small-Angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). We compared different models to distinguish membrane undulations, lipid tail motions, and the translational diffusion of the vesicles. All of the models indicate an increase in bending rigidity by a factor of 1.3-3.6. We demonstrate that even down to t > 10 ns and for Q > 0.07 Å-1, the observed NSE relaxation spectra are influenced by translational diffusion of the vesicles. For t < 5 ns, the lipid tail motion dominates the intermediate dynamic structure factor. As the salt concentration increases, this contribution diminishes. We introduced a time-dependent analysis for the bending rigidity that highlights only a limited Zilman-Granek time window in which the rigidity is physically meaningful.

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