Biophysical journal

Measurement of lipid nanodomain (raft) formation and size in sphingomyelin/POPC/cholesterol vesicles shows TX-100 and transmembrane helices increase domain size by coalescing preexisting nanodomains but do not induce domain formation.

PMID 22098740


Mixtures of unsaturated lipids, sphingolipids, and cholesterol form coexisting liquid-disordered and sphingolipid and cholesterol-rich liquid-ordered (Lo) phases in water. The detergent Triton X-100 does not readily solubilize Lo domains, but does solubilize liquid-disordered domains, and is commonly used to prepare detergent-resistant membranes from cells and model membranes. However, it has been proposed that in membranes with mixtures of sphingomyelin (SM), 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl phosphatidylcholine (POPC), and cholesterol Triton X-100 may induce Lo domain formation, and therefore detergent-resistant membranes may not reflect the presence of preexisting domains. To examine this hypothesis, the effect of Triton on Lo domain formation was measured in SM/POPC/cholesterol vesicles. Nitroxide quenching methods that can detect ordered nanodomains with radii >12 Å showed that in the absence of Triton X-100 this mixture formed ordered state domains that melt with a midpoint (= T(mid)) at ∼45°C. However, T(mid) was lower when detected using various fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) pairs. Furthermore, the T(mid) value was Ro dependent, and decreased as Ro increased. Because FRET can only readily detect domains with radii >Ro, this result can be explained by domain radii that are close to Ro and decrease as temperature increases. An analysis of FRET and quenching data suggests that nanodomain radius gradually decreases from ≥150 Å to <40 Å as temperature increases from 10 to 45°C. Interestingly, the presence of Triton X-100 or a transmembrane-type peptide did not stabilize ordered state formation when detected by nitroxide quenching, i.e., did not increase T(mid). However, FRET-detected T(mid) did increase in the presence of Triton X-100 or a transmembrane peptide, indicating that both increased domain size. Controls showed that the results could not be accounted for by probe-induced perturbations. Thus, SM/POPC/cholesterol, a mixture similar to that in the outer leaflet of plasma membranes, forms nanodomains at physiological temperatures, and TX-100 does not induce domain formation or increase the fraction of the bilayer in the ordered state, although it does increase domain size by coalescing preexisting domains.