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Biophys J. 2015 Sep 1;109(5):948-55. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.07.036.

Hexagonal Substructure and Hydrogen Bonding in Liquid-Ordered Phases Containing Palmitoyl Sphingomyelin.

Author information

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware. Electronic address:


All-atom simulation data are presented for ternary mixtures of palmitoyl sphingomyelin (PSM), cholesterol, and either palmitoyl oleoyl phosphatidyl choline or dioleoyl phosphatidyl choline (DOPC). For comparison, data for a mixture of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline (DPPC), cholesterol, and DOPC are also presented. Compositions corresponding to the liquid-ordered phase, the liquid-disordered phase, and coexistence of the two phases are simulated for each mixture. Within the liquid-ordered phase, cholesterol is preferentially solvated by DOPC if it is available, but if DOPC is replaced by POPC, cholesterol is preferentially solvated by PSM. In the DPPC mixtures, cholesterol interacts preferentially with the saturated chains via its smooth face, whereas in the PSM mixtures, cholesterol interacts preferentially with PSM via its rough face. Interactions between cholesterol and PSM have a very particular character: hydrogen bonding between cholesterol and the amide of PSM rotates the tilt of the amide plane, which primes it for more robust hydrogen bonding with other PSM. Cholesterol-PSM hydrogen bonding also locally modifies the hexagonal packing of hydrocarbon chains in the liquid-ordered phase of PSM mixtures.

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