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Biophys J. 2000 Jan;78(1):290-305.

Two photon fluorescence microscopy of coexisting lipid domains in giant unilamellar vesicles of binary phospholipid mixtures.

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Laboratory for Fluorescence Dynamics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801 USA.


Images of giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) formed by different phospholipid mixtures (1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine/1, 2-dilauroyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC/DLPC) 1:1 (mol/mol), and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine/1, 2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPE/DPPC), 7:3 and 3:7 (mol/mol) at different temperatures were obtained by exploiting the sectioning capability of a two-photon excitation fluorescence microscope. 6-Dodecanoyl-2-dimethylamino-naphthalene (LAURDAN), 6-propionyl-2-dimethylamino-naphthalene (PRODAN), and Lissamine rhodamine B 1,2-dihexadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (N-Rh-DPPE) were used as fluorescent probes to reveal domain coexistence in the GUVs. We report the first characterization of the morphology of lipid domains in unsupported lipid bilayers. From the LAURDAN intensity images the excitation generalized polarization function (GP) was calculated at different temperatures to characterize the phase state of the lipid domain. On the basis of the phase diagram of each lipid mixture, we found a homogeneous fluorescence distribution in the GUV images at temperatures corresponding to the fluid region in all lipid mixtures. At temperatures corresponding to the phase coexistence region we observed lipid domains of different sizes and shapes, depending on the lipid sample composition. In the case of GUVs formed by DPPE/DPPC mixture, the gel DPPE domains present different shapes, such as hexagonal, rhombic, six-cornered star, dumbbell, or dendritic. At the phase coexistence region, the gel DPPE domains are moving and growing as the temperature decreases. Separated domains remain in the GUVs at temperatures corresponding to the solid region, showing solid-solid immiscibility. A different morphology was found in GUVs composed of DLPC/DPPC 1:1 (mol/mol) mixtures. At temperatures corresponding to the phase coexistence, we observed the gel domains as line defects in the GUV surface. These lines move and become thicker as the temperature decreases. As judged by the LAURDAN GP histogram, we concluded that the lipid phase characteristics at the phase coexistence region are different between the DPPE/DPPC and DLPC/DPPC mixtures. In the DPPE/DPPC mixture the coexistence is between pure gel and pure liquid domains, while in the DLPC/DPPC 1:1 (mol/mol) mixture we observed a strong influence of one phase on the other. In all cases the domains span the inner and outer leaflets of the membrane, suggesting a strong coupling between the inner and outer monolayers of the lipid membrane. This observation is also novel for unsupported lipid bilayers.

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