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Cryobiology. 1987 Aug;24(4):324-31.

Modes of interaction of cryoprotectants with membrane phospholipids during freezing.


The abilities of a variety of compounds to inhibit liposome fusion during freeze/thaw were assessed by resonance energy transfer. Small unilamellar vesicles have been frozen according to three different protocols. Membrane intermixing was seen to be relatively independent of freezing protocol except when glycerol, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), or sarcosine was used as the cryoprotectant. Low concentrations of polyvinylpyrolidone or 4-hydroxyproline enhanced fusion of liposomes, whereas high concentrations of these compounds had no effect. Glycerol, DMSO, proline, betaine, and sarcosine reduced fusion, but only when their concentrations were greater than 1 M. The most effective cryoprotectants were trehalose and sucrose, which both reduced fusion to minimal levels at concentrations of only 0.2 M. We have also used europium to probe the modes of interaction of these compounds with phospholipids. Europium, which is known to bind to the phosphate headgroup, maximized fusion in liposomes subjected to freeze/thaw. This "europium-induced" fusion was progressively reduced by the presence of increasing sucrose, trehalose, or glycerol, suggesting a competition for the headgroup. However, the presence of proline, betaine, or sarcosine did not reduce europium-induced fusion, suggesting that these compounds do not compete for the headgroup. Substitution of polar side chains on the hydrophobic regions of proline or sarcosine eliminate their cryoprotective properties, suggesting that these compounds interact with the acyl chains of the bilayer.

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