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Biophys J. 2001 Aug;81(2):1059-69.

Atomic force microscopy studies of ganglioside GM1 domains in phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylcholine/cholesterol bilayers.

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  • 1Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences, National Research Council Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6 Canada.


The distribution of ganglioside in supported lipid bilayers has been studied by atomic force microscopy. Hybrid dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC)/dipalmitoylphosphatidylethanolamine (DPPE) and (2:1 DPPC/cholesterol)/DPPE bilayers were prepared using the Langmuir Blodgett technique. Egg PC and DPPC bilayers were prepared by vesicle fusion. Addition of ganglioside GM1 to each of the lipid bilayers resulted in the formation of heterogeneous surfaces that had numerous small raised domains (30--200 nm in diameter). Incubation of these bilayers with cholera toxin B subunit resulted in the detection of small protein aggregates, indicating specific binding of the protein to the GM1-rich microdomains. Similar results were obtained for DPPC, DPPC/cholesterol, and egg PC, demonstrating that the overall bilayer morphology was not dependent on the method of bilayer preparation or the fluidity of the lipid mixture. However, bilayers produced by vesicle fusion provided evidence for asymmetrically distributed GM1 domains that probably reflect the presence of ganglioside in both inner and outer monolayers of the initial vesicle. The results are discussed in relation to recent inconsistencies in the estimation of sizes of lipid rafts in model and natural membranes. It is hypothesized that small ganglioside-rich microdomains may exist within larger ordered domains in both natural and model membranes.

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