Steady-state fluorescence properties of 6-dodecanoyl-2-dimethylaminonapththalene (Laurdan) have been used to determine the coexistence of separate lipid-phase domains in apical brush border membrane vesicles isolated from the rat renal cortex. The temperature dependence of generalized polarization has been utilized to quantitate the lipid phases. Finally, the effect of cholesterol enrichment on these parameters has been studied. The results indicate the coexistence of lipid-phase domains in brush border membranes based on the values of the generalized polarization and assuming that the membrane state can be described by coexistence of gel and liquid crystalline state. At 37 degrees C, approximately 19-32% of the brush border membrane lipids are in the gel phase, and cholesterol enrichment causes a further concentration-dependent increase in the gel phase of brush border membrane lipids.