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J Am Chem Soc. 2014 Jan 15;136(2):725-32. doi: 10.1021/ja4105667. Epub 2014 Jan 3.

The molecular structure of the liquid-ordered phase of lipid bilayers.

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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and §National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health , Bethesda, Maryland 20892, United States.


Molecular dynamics simulations reveal substructures within the liquid-ordered phase of lipid bilayers. These substructures, identified in a 10 μs all-atom trajectory of liquid-ordered/liquid-disordered coexistence (L(o)/L(d)) are composed of saturated hydrocarbon chains packed with local hexagonal order and separated by interstitial regions enriched in cholesterol and unsaturated chains. Lipid hydrocarbon chain order parameters calculated from the L(o) phase are in excellent agreement with (2)H NMR measurements; the local hexagonal packing is also consistent with (1)H-MAS NMR spectra of the L(o) phase, NMR diffusion experiments, and small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering. The balance of cholesterol-rich to local hexagonal order is proposed to control the partitioning of membrane components into the L(o) regions. The latter have been frequently associated with formation of so-called rafts, platforms in the plasma membranes of cells that facilitate interaction between components of signaling pathways.

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