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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Sep 20;1565(1):123-8.

Use of laurdan fluorescence intensity and polarization to distinguish between changes in membrane fluidity and phospholipid order.

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Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA.


Laurdan is a fluorescent probe that detects changes in membrane phase properties through its sensitivity to the polarity of its environment in the bilayer. Variations in membrane water content cause shifts in the laurdan emission spectrum, which are quantified by calculating the generalized polarization (GP). We tested whether laurdan fluorescence could be used to distinguish differences in phospholipid order from changes in membrane fluidity by examining the temperature dependence of laurdan GP and fluorescence anisotropy in dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) vesicles. The phase transition from the solid ordered phase to the liquid disordered phase was observed as a decrease in laurdan GP values from 0.7 to -0.14 and a reduction in anisotropy from 0.25 to 0.12. Inclusion of various amounts of cholesterol in the membranes to generate a liquid ordered phase caused an increase in the apparent melting temperature detected by laurdan GP. In contrast, cholesterol decreased the apparent melting temperature estimated from anisotropy measurements. Based on these results, it appeared that laurdan anisotropy detected changes in membrane fluidity while laurdan GP sensed changes in phospholipid order. Thus, the same fluorescent probe can be used to distinguish effects of perturbations on membrane order and fluidity by comparing the results of fluorescence emission and anisotropy measurements.

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