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M. Fidorra, T. Heimburg, and L. A. Bagatolli. 2009. Direct visualization of the lateral structure of cerebrosides/POPC mixtures in presence and absence of cholesterol. Biophys. J. 97: 142-154. abstract69

We studied the thermal behavior of membranes composed of mixtures of natural cerebrosides (from porcine brain) and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) with and without cholesterol, using differential scanning calorimetry, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and confocal/multiphoton fluorescence microscopy. The POPC/cerebroside mixture display solid ordered/liquid disordered phase coexistence in a broad range of compositions and temperatures in agreement with previous results reported for POPC/(bovine brain)cerebrosides. The observed phase coexistence scenario consists of elongated, micrometer-sized cerebroside-rich solid ordered domains that span the bilayer, embedded in a POPC-rich liquid disordered phase. The data obtained from differential scanning calorimetry and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy was in line with that obtained in the microscopy experiments for the binary mixture, except at very high cerebroside molar fractions (0.8-0.9) were some differences are observed. Cholesterol incorporation exerts strong changes on the lateral organization of POPC/porcine brain cerebroside membranes. At intermediate cholesterol concentrations (10-25 mol %) the solid ordered/liquid disordered phase coexistence scenario gradually transform to a solid ordered/liquid ordered one. Above 25 mol % of cholesterol two distinct regions with liquid ordered phase character are visualized in the membrane until a single liquid ordered phase forms at 40 mol % cholesterol. The observed cholesterol effect largely differs from that reported for POPC/porcine brain ceramide, reflecting the impact of the sphingolipids polar headgroup on the membrane lateral organization.