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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Jan;1808(1):405-14. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2010.10.006. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

Ethanol effects on binary and ternary supported lipid bilayers with gel/fluid domains and lipid rafts.

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Centro de Química e Bioquímica, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Ed. C8, Campo Grande 1749-016, Lisboa, Portugal.


Ethanol-lipid bilayer interactions have been a recurrent theme in membrane biophysics, due to their contribution to the understanding of membrane structure and dynamics. The main purpose of this study was to assess the interplay between membrane lateral heterogeneity and ethanol effects. This was achieved by in situ atomic force microscopy, following the changes induced by sequential ethanol additions on supported lipid bilayers formed in the absence of alcohol. Binary phospholipid mixtures with a single gel phase, dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC)/cholesterol, gel/fluid phase coexistence DPPC/dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC), and ternary lipid mixtures containing cholesterol, mimicking lipid rafts (DOPC/DPPC/cholesterol and DOPC/sphingomyelin/cholesterol), i.e., with liquid ordered/liquid disordered (ld/lo) phase separation, were investigated. For all compositions studied, and in two different solid supports, mica and silicon, domain formation or rearrangement accompanied by lipid bilayer thinning and expansion was observed. In the case of gel/fluid coexistence, low ethanol concentrations lead to a marked thinning of the fluid but not of the gel domains. In the case of ld/lo all the bilayer thins simultaneously by a similar extent. In both cases, only the more disordered phase expanded significantly, indicating that ethanol increases the proportion of disordered domains. Water/bilayer interfacial tension variation and freezing point depression, inducing acyl chain disordering (including opening and looping), tilting, and interdigitation, are probably the main cause for the observed changes. The results presented herein demonstrate that ethanol influences the bilayer properties according to membrane lateral organization.

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