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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Sep;1768(9):2182-94. Epub 2007 May 21.

Fluorescence probe partitioning between Lo/Ld phases in lipid membranes.

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School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Fluorescence microscopy imaging is an important technique for studying lipid membranes and is increasingly being used for examining lipid bilayer membranes, especially those showing macroscopic coexisting domains. Lipid phase coexistence is a phenomenon of potential biological significance. The identification of lipid membrane heterogeneity by fluorescence microscopy relies on membrane markers with well-defined partitioning behavior. While the partitioning of fluorophores between gel and liquid-disordered phases has been extensively characterized, the same is not true for coexisting liquid phases. We have used fluorescence microscopy imaging to examine a large variety of lipid membrane markers for their liquid phase partitioning in membranes with various lipid compositions. Most fluorescent lipid analogs are found to partition strongly into the liquid-disordered (L(d)) phase. In contrast, some fluorescent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with a flat ring system were found to partition equally, but others partition preferentially into liquid-ordered (L(o)) phases. We have found these fluorescent markers effective for identification of coexisting macroscopic membrane phases in ternary lipid systems composed of phospholipids and cholesterol.

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