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Langmuir. 2015 Mar 17;31(10):3135-45. doi: 10.1021/la504047n. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Atomic force microscopy characterization of palmitoylceramide and cholesterol effects on phospholipid bilayers: a topographic and nanomechanical study.

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Unidad de Biofísica (CSIC, UPV/EHU) and Departamento de Bioquímica, Universidad del País Vasco, P.O. Box 644, 48080 Bilbao, Spain.


Supported planar bilayers (SPBs) on mica substrates have been studied at 23 °C under atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based surface topography and force spectroscopy with two main objectives: (i) to characterize palmitoylceramide (pCer)-induced gel (Lβ) domains in binary mixtures with either its sphingolipid relative palmitoylsphingomyelin (pSM) or the glycerophospholipid dipalmitoylphosphorylcholine (DPPC) and (ii) to evaluate effects of incorporating cholesterol (Chol) into the previous mixtures in terms of Cer and Chol cooperation for the generation of lamellar gel (Lβ) phases of ternary composition. Binary phospholipid/pCer mixtures at XpCer < 0.33 promote the generation of laterally segregated micron-sized pCer-rich domains. Their analysis at different phospholipid/pCer ratios, by means of domain thickness, roughness, and mechanical resistance to tip piercing, reveals unvarying AFM-derived features over increasing pCer concentrations. These results suggest that the domains grow in size with increasing pCer concentrations while keeping a constant phospholipid/pCer stoichiometry. Moreover, the data show important differences between pCer interactions with pSM or DPPC. Gel domains generated in pSM/pCer bilayers are thinner than the pSM-rich surrounding phase, while the opposite is observed in DPPC/pCer mixtures. Furthermore, a higher breakthrough force is observed for pSM/pCer as compared to DPPC/pCer domains, which can be associated with the preferential pCer interaction with its sphingolipid relative pSM. Cholesterol incorporation into both binary mixtures at a high Chol and pCer ratio abolishes any phospholipid/pCer binary domains. Bilayers with properties different from any of the pure or binary samples are observed instead. The data support no displacement of Chol by pCer or vice versa under these conditions, but rather a preferential interaction between the two hydrophobic lipids.

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