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J Biol Chem. 2003 Jul 25;278(30):28109-15. Epub 2003 May 7.

Probing lipid mobility of raft-exhibiting model membranes by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy.

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  • 1Experimental Biophysics Group, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Am Fassberg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Confocal fluorescence microscopy and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) have been employed to investigate the lipid spatial and dynamic organization in giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) prepared from ternary mixtures of dioleoyl-phosphatidylcholine/sphingomyelin/cholesterol. For a certain range of cholesterol concentration, formation of domains with raft-like properties was observed. Strikingly, the lipophilic probe 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI-C18) was excluded from sphingomyelin-enriched regions, where the raft marker ganglioside GM1 was localized. Cholesterol was shown to promote lipid segregation in dioleoyl-phosphatidylcholine-enriched, liquid-disordered, and sphingomyelin-enriched, liquid-ordered phases. Most importantly, the lipid mobility in sphingomyelin-enriched regions significantly increased by increasing the cholesterol concentration. These results pinpoint the key role, played by cholesterol in tuning lipid dynamics in membranes. At cholesterol concentrations >50 mol%, domains vanished and the lipid diffusion slowed down upon further addition of cholesterol. By taking the molecular diffusion coefficients as a fingerprint of membrane phase compositions, FCS is proven to evaluate domain lipid compositions. Moreover, FCS data from ternary and binary mixtures have been used to build a ternary phase diagram, which shows areas of phase coexistence, transition points, and, importantly, how lipid dynamics varies between and within phase regions.

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