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Detection of cholesterol bilayer domains in intact biological membranes: Methodology development and its application to studies of eye lens fiber cell plasma membranes. Exp Eye Res 2019 01;178:72-81



Pubmed ID


Pubmed Central ID





Four purported lipid domains are expected in plasma membranes of the eye lens fiber cells. Three of these domains, namely, bulk, boundary, and trapped lipids, have been detected. The cholesterol bilayer domain (CBD), which has been detected in lens lipid membranes prepared from the total lipids extracted from fiber cell plasma membranes, has not yet been detected in intact fiber cell plasma membranes. Here, a saturation-recovery electron paramagnetic resonance spin-labeling method has been developed that allows identification of CBDs in intact fiber cell plasma membranes of eye lenses. This method is based on saturation-recovery signal measurements of the cholesterol-analog spin label located in the lipid bilayer portion of intact fiber cell membranes as a function of the partial pressure of molecular oxygen with which the samples are equilibrated. The capabilities and limitations of this method are illustrated for intact cortical and nuclear fiber cell plasma membranes from porcine eye lenses where CBDs were detected in porcine nuclear intact membranes for which CBDs were also detected in lens lipid membranes. CBDs were not detected in porcine cortical intact and lens lipid membranes. CBDs were detected in intact membranes isolated from both cortical and nuclear fiber cells of lenses obtained from human donors. The cholesterol content in fiber cell membranes of these donors was always high enough to induce the formation of CBDs in cortical as well as nuclear lens lipid membranes. The results obtained for intact membranes, when combined with those obtained for lens lipid membranes, advance our understanding of the role of high cholesterol content and CBDs in lens biology, aging, and/or cataract formation.

Author List

Mainali L, O'Brien WJ, 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

Cell Membrane
Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
Lens Cortex, Crystalline
Lens Nucleus, Crystalline
Lipid Bilayers
Membrane Fluidity
Membrane Lipids
Spin Labels