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Mol Membr Biol. 1995 Jan-Mar;12(1):113-9.

Cholesterol domains in biological membranes.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Texas A&M University, TVMC, College Station 77843-4466, USA.


Membrane cholesterol is distributed asymmetrically both within the cell or within cellular membranes. Elaboration of intracellular cholesterol trafficking, targeting and intramembrane distribution has been spurred by both molecular and structural approaches. The expression of recombinant sterol carrier proteins in L-cell fibroblasts has been especially useful in demonstrating for the first time that such proteins actually elicit intracellular and intraplasma membrane redistribution of sterol. Additional advances in the use of native fluorescent sterols allowed resolution of transbilayer and lateral cholesterol domains in plasma membranes from cultured fibroblasts, brain synaptosomes and erythrocytes. In all three cell surface membranes, cholesterol is enriched in the inner, cytofacial leaflet. Up to three different cholesterol domains have been identified in the lateral plane of the plasma membrane: a fast exchanging domain comprising less than 10% of cholesterol, a slowly exchanging domain comprising about 30% of cholesterol, and a very slowly or non-exchangeable sterol domain comprising 50-60% of plasma membrane cholesterol. Factors modulating plasma membrane cholesterol domains include polyunsaturated fatty acids, expression of intracellular sterol carrier proteins, drugs such as ethanol, and several membrane pathologies (systemic lupus erythematosus, sickle cell anaemia and aging). Disturbances in plasma membrane cholesterol domains alter transbilayer fluidity gradients in plasma membranes. Such changes are associated with decreased Ca(2+)-ATPase and Na+, K(+)-ATPase activity. Thus, the size, dynamics and distribution of cholesterol domains within membranes not only regulate cholesterol efflux/influx but also modulate plasma membrane protein functions and receptor-effector coupled systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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