Anomalous swelling of lipid bilayer stacks is caused by softening of the bending modulus
Arrays of bilayers of the lipid dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC) exhibit anomalous swelling as the temperature decreases from T=27 °C toward the main phase transition at TM=24 °C, within the fluid Lα thermodynamic phase. Analysis of diffuse x-ray scattering data from oriented stacks of biological lipid bilayers now makes it possible to obtain the bending modulus KC and the bulk compressibility modulus B separately. We report results that show that the measured bending modulus KC for DMPC decreases by almost a factor of 2 between T=27 °C and the transition temperature at TM=24 °C, which is the same temperature range where the anomalous swelling occurs. We also report Monte Carlo simulations that show that the anomalous swelling can be fully accounted for by the measured decrease in KC with no changes in the van der Waals or hydration forces.