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J Mol Biol. 2003 Jun 13;329(4):793-9.

The sensitivity of lipid domains to small perturbations demonstrated by the effect of Triton.

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Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Division of Biophysical Chemistry, Klingelbergstr. 70, CH-4056, Basel, Switzerland.


The hypothesis of lipid rafts describes functional domains in biological membranes. It is often assumed that rafts form by spontaneous de-mixing of certain lipids and that they can be isolated as detergent-resistant membrane particles (DRMs) using the detergent Triton X-100 (TX). Here, we present a model that describes the process of domain formation in membranes in the presence and in the absence of TX. We measure the interactions between TX and an equimolar mixture of sphingomyelin (SM), cholesterol (Cho), and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-3-sn-glycero-phosphatidylcholine (POPC) (1:1:1, mol) by means of isothermal titration calorimetry. Comparison with pure POPC membranes reveals a very unfavorable interaction between TX and SM/Cho, which causes a substantial tendency to segregate these molecules into separate, DRM-like (SM-rich) and fluid (TX-rich), domains. If rafts are indeed formed by spontaneous de-mixing of PC and SM/Cho, they must be very sensitive, and perturbations caused by techniques used to study rafts could lead to misleading results. If, however, rafts are much more stable than PC-SM-Cho domains, there must be an unknown raft stabilizer. Subtle changes of such a promoter could serve to modulate raft function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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