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Free Radic Biol Med. 1995 Oct;19(4):511-6.

Cholesterol protects the phospholipid bilayer from oxidative damage.

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  • 1Istituto di Medicina Sperimentale, CNR, Roma, Italy.


The measurement of fluorescence lifetime distribution of 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene is used for the detection of oxidative damage produced in phospholipid membranes by ionizing radiation. The recently developed method is based on the linear relationship between the width of the probe lifetime distribution and the logarithm of the dose. The molecular origin of the damage resides in the production of hydroperoxide residues at the level of acyl chains double bonds. A chemiluminescence assay was used to quantitate the amount of produced hydroperoxides. Consequences of the produced damages include an increased disorder in the upper portion of the bilayer, accompanied by the penetration of water molecules. In the presence of the physiological concentration of cholesterol in phopholipid bilayers, the amount of hydroperoxides produced by ionizing radiation is dramatically reduced. The packing effect of cholesterol in phopholipid bilayers is well recognized, as well as its influence on the reduction of water concentration in the bilayer. The dramatic reduction of hydroperoxides concentration observed when irradiation is performed in the presence of cholesterol probably originates from a steric hindrance to the radical chain reaction through the unsaturated lipids due to the presence of cholesterol.

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