Cholesterol is a key player in regulating physico-chemical properties of cellular membranes and, thereby, ensuring cell viability. In particular, lipid-cholesterol interactions may provide important information on the spatio-temporal organization of membrane components. Here, we apply confocal imaging and Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS) to Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs) composed of binary mixtures of lipids and cholesterol.
The effect of cholesterol on lipid dynamics and molecular packing order of unsaturated, monounsaturated, fully saturated (with both low and high phase transition temperatures, Tm) glycero-phospholipids and sphingomyelin has been investigated. We show that, for unsaturated glycerophospholipids, the decrease of the lipid diffusion coefficient as a result of the interaction with cholesterol does not depend on the fatty acid chain length. However, the values of the diffusion coefficient change as a function of chain length. The monounsaturated phospholipid palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC) exhibits a dynamic behavior very similar to the unsaturated dioleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (DOPC). By contrast, for saturated (low Tm) glycero-phospholipids, cholesterol causes a decrease of lipid mobility in a chain length-dependent manner.
FCS can be employed as a valuable tool to study lipid-sterol interactions and their effect on lipid dynamics, molecular packing and degree of conformational order.
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We thank Dick Hoekstra, Lucie Kalvodova, and Dennis Merkle for stimulating discussions.
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