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Prog Lipid Res. 2002 Jan;41(1):66-97.

Cholesterol interactions with phospholipids in membranes.

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Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacy, Abo Akademi University, PO Box 66, FIN 20521, Turku, Finland.


Mammalian cell membranes are composed of a complex array of glycerophospholipids and sphingolipids that vary in head-group and acyl-chain composition. In a given cell type, membrane phospholipids may amount to more than a thousand molecular species. The complexity of phospholipid and sphingolipid structures is most likely a consequence of their diverse roles in membrane dynamics, protein regulation, signal transduction and secretion. This review is mainly focused on two of the major classes of membrane phospholipids in eukaryotic organisms, sphingomyelins and phosphatidylcholines. These phospholipid classes constitute more than 50% of membrane phospholipids. Cholesterol is most likely to associate with these lipids in the membranes of the cells. We discuss the synthesis and distribution in the cell of these lipids, how they are believed to interact with each other, and what cellular consequences such interactions may have. We also include a discussion about findings in the recent literature regarding cholesterol/phospholipid interactions in model membrane systems. Finally, we look at the recent trends in computer and molecular dynamics simulations regarding phospholipid and cholesterol/phospholipid behavior in bilayer membranes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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