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Langmuir. 2012 Sep 4;28(35):12851-60. doi: 10.1021/la302620t. Epub 2012 Aug 23.

Influence of cholesterol on the phase transition of lipid bilayers: a temperature-controlled force spectroscopy study.

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1
Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Baldiri i Reixac 15-21, 08028, Barcelona, Spain;

Abstract

Cholesterol (Chol) plays the essential function of regulating the physical properties of the cell membrane by controlling the lipid organization and phase behavior and, thus, managing the membrane fluidity and its mechanical strength. Here, we explore the model system DPPC:Chol by means of temperature-controlled atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) to assess the influence of Chol on the membrane ordering and stability. We analyze the system in a representative range of compositions up to 50 mol % Chol studying the phase evolution upon temperature increase (from room temperature to temperatures high above the T(m) of the DPPC bilayer) and the corresponding (nano)mechanical stability. By this means, we correlate the mechanical behavior and composition with the lateral order of each phase present in the bilayers. We prove that low Chol contents lead to a phase-segregated system, whereas high contents of Chol can give a homogeneous bilayer. In both cases, Chol enhances the mechanical stability of the membrane, and an extraordinarily stable system is observed for equimolar fractions (50 mol % Chol). In addition, even when no thermal transition is detected by the traditional bulk analysis techniques for liposomes with high Chol content (40 and 50 mol %), we demonstrate that temperature-controlled AFM-FS is capable of identifying a thermal transition for the supported lipid bilayers. Finally, our results validate the AFM-FS technique as an ideal platform to differentiate phase coexistence and transitions in lipid bilayers and bridge the gap between the results obtained by traditional methods for bulk analysis, the theoretical predictions, and the behavior of these systems at the nanoscale.

PMID:
22873775
DOI:
10.1021/la302620t
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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