Prior reports that the coexistence of the liquid-expanded (LE) and liquid-condensed (LC) phases in phospholipid monolayers terminates in a critical point have been compromised by experimental difficulties with Langmuir troughs at high surface pressures and temperatures. The studies reported here used the continuous interface of a captive bubble to minimize these problems during measurements of the phase behavior for monolayers containing the phosphatidylcholines with the four different possible combinations of palmitoyl and/or myristoyl acyl residues. Isothermal compression produced surface pressure-area curves for dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) that were indistinguishable from previously published data obtained with Langmuir troughs. During isobaric heating, a steep increase in molecular area corresponding to the main LC-LE phase transition persisted for all four compounds to 45 mN/m, at which collapse of the LE phase first occurred. No other discontinuities to suggest other phase transitions were apparent. Isobars for DPPC at higher pressures were complicated by collapse of the monolayer, but continued to show evidence up to 65 mN/m for at least the onset of the LC-LE transition. The persistence of the main phase transition to high surface pressures suggests that a critical point for these monolayers of disaturated phospholipids is either nonexistent or inaccessible at an air-water interface.
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