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Biophys J. 2012 Jul 18;103(2):255-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.05.025. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Spontaneous formation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional cholesterol crystals in single hydrated lipid bilayers.

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WYSS Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Grazing incidence x-ray diffraction measurements were performed on single hydrated bilayers and monolayers of Ceramide/Cholesterol/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocyholine at varying concentrations. There are substantial differences in the phase and structure behavior of the crystalline domains formed within the bilayers relative to the corresponding monolayers, due to interactions between the opposing lipid leaflets. Depending on the lipid composition, these interactions lead to phase separation and formation of cholesterol crystals. The cholesterol and ceramide/cholesterol mixed phases were further characterized at 37°C by immunolabeling with specific antibodies recognizing ordered molecular arrays of cholesterol. Previous studies have shown that cholesterol may nucleate in artificial membranes to form thick two-dimensional bilayer crystals. The study herein demonstrates further growth of cholesterol into three-dimensional crystals. We believe that these results may provide further insight into the formation of cholesterol crystals in early stages of atherosclerosis inflammation.

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