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Biochemistry. 2004 Feb 3;43(4):1010-8.

Relationship between sterol/steroid structure and participation in ordered lipid domains (lipid rafts): implications for lipid raft structure and function.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794-5215, USA.


The formation and stability of ordered lipid domains (rafts) in model membrane vesicles were studied using a series of sterols and steroids structurally similar to cholesterol. In one assay, insolubility in Triton X-100 was assessed in bilayers composed of sterol/steroid mixed with dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC), dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, or a 1:1 mixture of these phospholipids. In a second assay fluorescence quenching was used to determine the degree of ordered domain formation in bilayers containing sterol/steroid and a 1:1 mixture of DPPC and a quencher-carrying phosphatidylcholine. Both methods showed that several single modifications of the cholesterol structure weaken, but do not fully abolish, the ability of sterols and steroids to promote ordered domain formation when mixed with DPPC. Some of these modifications included a shift of the double bond from the 5-6 carbons (cholesterol) to 4-5 carbons (allocholesterol), derivatization of the 3-OH (cholesterol methyl ether, cholesteryl formate), and alteration of the 3-hydroxy to a keto group (cholestanone). An oxysterol involved in atherosclerosis, 7-ketocholesterol, formed domains with DPPC that were as thermally stable as those with cholesterol although not as tightly packed as judged by fluorescence anisotropy. It was also found that 7-ketocholesterol has fluorescence quenching properties making it a useful spectroscopic probe. Lathosterol, which has a 7-8 carbon double bond in place of the 5-6 double bond of cholesterol, formed rafts with DPPC that were at least as detergent-resistant as, and even more thermally stable than, rafts containing cholesterol. Because lathosterol is an intermediate in cholesterol biosynthesis, we conclude it is unlikely that sterol biosynthesis continues past lathosterol in order to create a raft-favoring lipid.

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