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Using spin-label electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) to discriminate and characterize the cholesterol bilayer domain. Chem Phys Lipids 2011 Nov;164(8):819-29



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Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spin-labeling methods make it possible not only to discriminate the cholesterol bilayer domain (CBD) but also to obtain information about the organization and dynamics of cholesterol molecules in the CBD. The abilities of spin-label EPR were demonstrated for Chol/POPC (cholesterol/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine) membranes, with a Chol/POPC mixing ratio that changed from 0 to 3. Using the saturation-recovery (SR) EPR approach with cholesterol analogue spin labels, ASL and CSL, and oxygen or NiEDDA relaxation agents, it was confirmed that the CBD was present in all membrane suspensions when the mixing ratio exceeded the cholesterol solubility threshold (CST). Conventional EPR spectra of ASL and CSL in the CBD were similar to those in the surrounding POPC bilayer (which is saturated with cholesterol), indicating that in both domains, cholesterol exists in the lipid-bilayer-like structures. The behavior of ASL and CSL (and, thus, the behavior of cholesterol molecules) in the CBD was compared with that in the surrounding POPC-cholesterol domain (PCD). In the CBD, ASL and CSL molecules are better ordered than in the surrounding PCD. This difference is small and can be compared to that induced in the surrounding domain by an ~10°C decrease in temperature. Thus, cholesterol molecules are unexpectedly dynamic in the CBD, which should enhance their interaction with the surrounding domain. The polarity of the water/membrane interface of the CBD is significantly greater than that of the surrounding PCD, which significantly enhances penetration of the water-soluble relaxation agent, NiEDDA, into that region. Hydrophobicity measured in the centers of both domains is similar. The oxygen transport parameter (oxygen diffusion-concentration product) measured in the center of the CBD is about ten times smaller than that measured in the center of the surrounding domain. Thus, the CBD can form a significant barrier to oxygen transport. The results presented here point out similarities between the organization and dynamics of cholesterol molecules in the CBD and in the surrounding PCD, as well as significant differences between CBDs and cholesterol crystals.

Author List

Raguz M, Mainali L, Widomska J, Subczynski WK


Witold K. Subczynski PhD Professor in the Biophysics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Biological Transport
Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
Lipid Bilayers
Spin Labels