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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2001 Apr 2;1511(2):330-40.

Surface properties of cholesterol-containing membranes detected by Prodan fluorescence.

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  • 1Istituto di Neurobiologia e Medicina Molecolare, CNR, Viale Marx 15-43, 00137 Rome, Italy.


The fluorescent membrane probe 6-propionyl-2-dimethylaminonaphthalene (Prodan) displays a high sensitivity to the polarity and packing properties of lipid membrane. Contrary to 6-lauroyl-2-dimethylaminonaphthalene (Laurdan), Prodan can also monitor the properties of the membrane surface, i.e., the polar-head pretransition. In bilayers composed of coexisting gel and liquid-crystalline phases, Prodan shows a preferential partitioning in the latter, so that the detected membrane properties mainly belong to fluid domains. In the presence of cholesterol, the packing properties of the gel phase phospholipids are modified in such a way that Prodan can penetrate and label the membrane. Although Prodan labeling of the gel phase is a function of cholesterol concentration, 3 mol percent cholesterol is sufficient for a 60% Prodan labeling with respect to the maximum labeling reached at 15 mol percent cholesterol. We present steady-state and dynamical fluorescence measurements of Prodan in bilayers in the presence of cholesterol. Our results fit the liquid-ordered/liquid-disordered phase model for cholesterol-containing membranes and show that the presence of cholesterol, in addition to modification to the phase state of the hydrophobic portion of the bilayer, strongly affects the packing and the polarity of the membrane hydrophobic-hydrophilic interface.

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