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Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr. 2017 Mar;1859(3):319-330. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2016.12.010. Epub 2016 Dec 16.

The effect of repeated lateral compression and expansions mimicking blinking on selected tear film polar lipid monofilms.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Electronic address:


The tear film lipid layer is formed on the anterior surface of the eye, functioning as a barrier to excess evaporation and foreign particles, while also providing stability to the tear film. The lipid layer is organized into a polar lipid layer consisting of phospholipids, ceramides, and free fatty acids that act as a surfactant to a non-polar multilayer of wax and cholesterol esters. Due to shear forces from eye movement and the compression and expansion of blinking, the tear lipids are under constant stress. However, tear film is able to resist immediate rupture and remains intact over multiple blinks. This work aimed to better understand the lateral organization of selected tear film polar lipids. The polar lipid biomimetic studied here consisted of dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC), dipalmitoyl phosphatidylethanolamine (DPPE), palmitoyl glucosylceramide (PGC), and palmitoyl sphingomyelin (PSM). Surface pressure-area isocycles mimicked blinking and films were visualized by Brewster angle microscopy (BAM). All lipid systems formed relatively reversible films as indicated by limited hysteresis. However, pure DPPC and PSM films experienced greater changes in lipid packing upon compression and expansion compared to pure PGC and DPPE. This suggests that the driving force behind maintaining the lateral organization of the polar lipids from tear film may be the hydrogen bonding propensities of the head groups. Additionally, isocycles of films containing DPPC, DPPE, and PGC mixtures exhibited evidence for reversible multilayer formation or folding. This was supported by 3D analysis of structures that formed during compression but reintegrated back into the bulk lipid film during expansion near the in vitro tear film surface pressure of the open eye. Therefore, the polar lipids of tear film may be directly involved in preventing film rupture during a blink.


Blinking; Brewster angle microscopy; Compression expansion cycles; Langmuir monolayer; Tear film polar lipid

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