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Biophysical journal

Material properties of lipid microdomains: force-volume imaging study of the effect of cholesterol on lipid microdomain rigidity.


PMID 20682261

Abstract

The effect of cholesterol (CHOL) on the material properties of supported lipid bilayers composed of lipid mixtures that mimic the composition of lipid microdomains was studied by force-volume (FV) imaging under near-physiological conditions. These studies were carried out with lipid mixtures of dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, dioleoylphosphatidylserine, and sphingomyelin. FV imaging enabled simultaneous topology and force measurements of sphingomyelin-rich domains (higher domain (HD)) and phospholipid-rich domains (lower domain (LD)), which allowed quantitative measurement of the force needed to puncture the lipid bilayer with or without CHOL. The force required to penetrate the various domains of the bilayer was probed using high- and low-ionic-strength buffers as a function of increasing amounts of CHOL in the bilayer. The progressive addition of CHOL also led to a decreasing height difference between HD and LD. FV imaging further demonstrated a lack of adhesion between the atomic force microscope tip and the HD or LD at loads below the breakthrough force. These results can lead to a better understanding of the role that CHOL plays in the mechanical properties of cellular membranes in modulating membrane rigidity, which has important implications for cellular mechanotransduction.

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