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Langmuir. 2014 Nov 4;30(43):12897-906. doi: 10.1021/la502654j. Epub 2014 Oct 22.

The role of phospholipid headgroup composition and trehalose in the desiccation tolerance of Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Biophysics Division, Institute of Resource Ecology, Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf , PF 510119, D-01314 Dresden, Germany.


Anhydrobiotic organisms have the remarkable ability to lose extensive amounts of body water and survive in an ametabolic state. Distributed to various taxa of life, these organisms have developed strategies to efficiently protect their cell membranes and proteins against extreme water loss. Recently, we showed that the dauer larva of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is anhydrobiotic and accumulates high amounts of trehalose during preparation to harsh desiccation (preconditioning). Here, we have used this genetic model to study the biophysical manifestations of anhydrobiosis and show that, in addition to trehalose accumulation, dauer larvae dramatically reduce their phosphatidylcholine (PC) content. The chemical composition of the phospholipids (PLs) has key consequences not only for their interaction with trehalose, as we demonstrate with Langmuir-Blodgett monolayers, but also, the kinetic response of PLs to hydration transients is strongly influenced as evidenced by time-resolved FTIR spectroscopy. PLs from preconditioned larvae with reduced PC content exhibit a higher trehalose affinity, a stronger hydration-induced gain in acyl chain free volume, and a wider spread of structural relaxation rates of their lyotropic transitions and sub-headgroup H-bond interactions. The different hydration properties of PC and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) headgroups are crucial for the hydration-dependent rearrangement of the trehalose-mediated H-bond network. As a consequence, the compressibility modulus of PLs from preconditioned larvae is about 2.6-fold smaller than that from non-preconditioned ones. Thus, the biological relevance of reducing the PC:PE ratio by PL headgroup adaptation should be the preservation of plasma membrane integrity by relieving mechanical strain from desiccated trehalose-containing cells during fast rehydration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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