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Biophys J. 2001 May;80(5):2327-37.

Membrane properties of D-erythro-N-acyl sphingomyelins and their corresponding dihydro species.

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Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacy, Abo Akademi University, FIN 20521 Turku, Finland.


We have prepared acyl chain-defined D-erythro-sphingomyelins and D-erythro-dihydrosphingomyelins and compared their properties in monolayer and bilayer membranes. Surface pressure/molecular area isotherms of D-erythro-N-16:0-sphingomyelin (16:0-SM) and D-erythro-N-16:0-dihydrosphingomyelin (16:0-DHSM) show very similar packing properties, except that the expanded-to-condensed phase transition (crystallization) occurs at a lower surface pressure for 16:0-DHSM. The measured surface potential was generally about 100 mV less for 16:0-DHSM monolayers compared to 16:0-SM monolayers. The condensed domains (crystals) that formed in 16:0-SM monolayers as a function of compression displayed star-shaped morphology when viewed under an epifluorescence microscope. 16:0-DHSM monolayers did not form similar crystals upon compression. 16:0-DHSM was degraded much faster by sphingomyelinase from Staphylococcus aureus than 16:0-SM (10-fold difference in enzyme activity needed for comparable hydrolytic rate). Cholesterol desorption from 16:0-DHSM to cyclodextrin was slightly slower (approximately 20%) than the rate measured from 16:0-SM monolayers (at 60 mol % cholesterol). The bilayer melting temperature of 16:0-DHSM was 47.7 degrees C (DeltaH 8.3 kcal/mol) whereas it was 41.2 degrees C for 16:0-SM (DeltaH 8.1 kcal/mol). Cholesterol/16:0-DHSM bilayers (15 mol % sterol) had more condensed domains than comparable 16:0-SM bilayers, as evidenced from the quenching resistance of DPH in DHSM membranes. We conclude that cholesterol interacts more favorably with 16:0-DHSM and that the membranes are more condensed than comparable 16:0-SM-containing membranes.

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