Journal of Fluorescence

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 671–678 | Cite as

How Phospholipid-Cholesterol Interactions Modulate Lipid Lateral Diffusion, as Revealed by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

  • Nicoletta Kahya
  • Petra Schwille
Original Paper


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.


FCS Confocal fluorescence microscopy Giant unilamellar vesicles Lipid-sterol interaction Cholesterol Glycerophospholipid 



We thank Dick Hoekstra, Lucie Kalvodova, and Dennis Merkle for stimulating discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biophysics, Biotechnology CenterDresden University of TechnologyDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Philips Research LaboratoriesEindhovenThe Netherlands

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