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Effect of cholesterol on membrane microheterogeneity: a study using 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene fluorescence lifetime distributions.


The effect of cholesterol on microheterogeneity of liposomes obtained from saturated and unsaturated phospholipids was studied by measuring the fluorescence decay of 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene (DPH). Data obtained by frequency domain fluorometry have been analyzed either by discrete exponential or continuous lifetime distribution approaches. In egg phosphatidylcholine liposomes, the addition of cholesterol increases the lifetime value or the centre of the lifetime distribution. At high cholesterol concentration, good fits are obtained using a monomodal distribution analysis or single exponential component. At low cholesterol concentration an additional short component of low fractional intensity must be included to obtain a good fit. In dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine, the addition of cholesterol decreases the long lifetime component centre value both in the gel and in the liquid-crystalline state. The DPH lifetime value is sensitive to the dielectric constant of the probe microenvironment, and cholesterol has been shown to modify water penetration in the bilayer. Using this information our data indicate that cholesterol affects the polarity of the microenvironment in liposomes of unsaturated phosphatidylcholine and saturated phosphatidylcholine in different ways. Although the major conclusions of this paper are obtained using changes of the distribution centre upon cholesterol addition, there are also preliminary indications that the lifetime distribution width decreases as cholesterol is added. We have interpreted this observation as being due to the homogenizing effect of cholesterol.

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