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The immiscible cholesterol bilayer domain exists as an integral part of phospholipid bilayer membranes. Biochim Biophys Acta 2011 Apr;1808(4):1072-80



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Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spin-labeling methods were used to study the organization of cholesterol and phospholipids in membranes formed from Chol/POPS (cholesterol/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylserine) mixtures, with mixing ratios from 0 to 3. It was confirmed using the discrimination by oxygen transport and polar relaxation agent accessibility methods that the immiscible cholesterol bilayer domain (CBD) was present in all of the suspensions when the mixing ratio exceeded the cholesterol solubility threshold (CST) in the POPS membrane. The behavior of phospholipid molecules was monitored with phospholipid analogue spin labels (n-PCs), and the behavior of cholesterol was monitored with the cholesterol analogue spin labels CSL and ASL. Results indicated that phospholipid and cholesterol mixtures can form a membrane suspension up to a mixing ratio of ~2. Additionally, EPR spectra for n-PC, ASL, and CSL indicated that both phospholipids and cholesterol exist in these suspensions in the lipid-bilayer-like structures. EPR spectral characteristics of n-PCs (spin labels located in the phospholipid cholesterol bilayer, outside the CBD) change with increase in the cholesterol content up to and beyond the CST. These results present strong evidence that the CBD forms an integral part of the phospholipid bilayer when formed from a Chol/POPS mixture up to a mixing ratio of ~2. Interestingly, CSL in cholesterol alone (without phospholipids) when suspended in buffer does not detect formation of bilayer-like structures. A broad, single-line EPR signal is given, similar to that obtained for the dry film of cholesterol before addition of the buffer. This broad, single-line signal is also observed in suspensions formed for Chol/POPS mixtures (as a background signal) when the Chol/POPS ratio is much greater than 3. It is suggested that the EPR spin-labeling approach can discriminate and characterize the fraction of cholesterol that forms the CBD within the phospholipid bilayer.

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

Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
Lipid Bilayers
Models, Molecular
Spin Labels