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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Nov;1768(11):2777-86. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

Phase studies of model biomembranes: macroscopic coexistence of Lalpha+Lbeta, with light-induced coexistence of Lalpha+Lo Phases.

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Field of Biophysics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Phase diagrams of 3-component lipid bilayer mixtures containing cholesterol reveal major differences among the different types of lipids. Here we report that mixtures of cholesterol together with POPC and a high-melting temperature PC or sphingomyelin show different phase behavior from similar mixtures that contain DOPC or di-phytanoyl-PC instead of POPC. In particular, only one region of macroscopic phase coexistence occurs with POPC, a region of coexisting liquid disordered and solid phases, {Lalpha+Lbeta}. Fluorescence microscopy imaging is useful for these studies, but is subject to artifactual light-induced domain formation, as reported by Ayuyan and Cohen [A.G. Ayuyan, F.S. Cohen, Lipid peroxides promote large rafts: Effects of excitation of probes in fluorescence microscopy and electrochemical reactions during vesicle formation, Biophys. J. 91 (2006) 2172-2183.]. This artifact can be attenuated by decreased illumination and low dye concentration. The use of the free radical scavenger n-propyl gallate can reduce the artifact, but this molecule enters the bilayer and itself perturbs the phase behavior. We suggest that the light-induced domain separation artifact might actually arise from pre-existing lipid clusters that are induced to coalesce, and therefore indicates highly nonrandom mixing of the lipid components.

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