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J Lipid Res. 2015 Aug;56(8):1543-50. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M059519. Epub 2015 May 29.

α-Tocopherols modify the membrane dipole potential leading to modulation of ligand binding by P-glycoprotein.

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Biomedical Physics Group, School of Physics, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.
Cell Biophysics Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom.


α-Tocopherol (vitamin E) has attracted considerable attention as a potential protective or palliative agent. In vitro, its free radical-scavenging antioxidant action has been widely demonstrated. In vivo, however, vitamin E treatment exhibits negligible benefits against oxidative stress. α-Tocopherol influences lipid ordering within biological membranes and its derivatives have been suggested to inhibit the multi-drug efflux pump, P-glycoprotein (P-gp). This study employs the fluorescent membrane probe, 1-(3-sulfonatopropyl)-4-[β[2-(di-n-octylamino)-6-naphthyl]vinyl] pyridinium betaine, to investigate whether these effects are connected via influences on the membrane dipole potential (MDP), an intrinsic property of biological membranes previously demonstrated to modulate P-gp activity. α-Tocopherol and its non-free radical-scavenging succinate analog induced similar decreases in the MDP of phosphatidylcholine vesicles. α-Tocopherol succinate also reduced the MDP of T-lymphocytes, subsequently decreasing the binding affinity of saquinavir for P-gp. Additionally, α-tocopherol succinate demonstrated a preference for cholesterol-treated (membrane microdomain enriched) cells over membrane cholesterol-depleted cells. Microdomain disruption via cholesterol depletion decreased saquinavir's affinity for P-gp, potentially implicating these structures in the influence of α-tocopherol succinate on P-gp. This study provides evidence of a microdomain dipole potential-dependent mechanism by which α-tocopherol analogs influence P-gp activity. These findings have implications for the use of α-tocopherol derivatives for drug delivery across biological barriers.


antioxidants; cholesterol; lipid rafts; saquinavir; vitamin E

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