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Effect of hydrostatic pressure on water penetration and rotational dynamics in phospholipid-cholesterol bilayers


The effect of high hydrostatic pressure on the lipid bilayer hydration, the mean order parameter, and rotational dynamics of 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) cholesterol vesicles has been studied by time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy up to 1500 bar. Whereas the degree of hydration in the lipid headgroup and interfacial region was assessed from fluorescence lifetime data using the probe 1-(4-trimethylammonium-phenyl)-6-phenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene (TMA-DPH), the corresponding information in the upper acyl chain region was estimated from its effect on the fluorescence lifetime of and 3-(diphenylhexatrienyl)propyl-trimethylammonium (TMAP-DPH). The lifetime data indicate a greater level of interfacial hydration for DPPC bilayers than for POPC bilayers, but there is no marked difference in interchain hydration of the two bilayer systems. The addition of cholesterol at levels from 30 to 50 mol% to DPPC has a greater effect on the increase of hydrophobicity in the interfacial region of the bilayer than the application of hydrostatic pressure of several hundred to 1000 bar. Although the same trend is observed in the corresponding system, POPC/30 mol% cholesterol, the observed effects are markedly less pronounced. Whereas the rotational correlation times of the fluorophores decrease in passing the pressure-induced liquid-crystalline to gel phase transition of DPPC, the wobbling diffusion coefficient remains essentially unchanged. The wobbling diffusion constant of the two fluorophores changes markedly upon incorporation of 30 mol% cholesterol, and increases at higher pressures, also in the case of POPC/30 mol% cholesterol. The observed effects are discussed in terms of changes in the rotational characteristics of the fluorophores and the phase-state of the lipid mixture. The results demonstrate the ability of cholesterol to adjust the structural and dynamic properties of membranes composed of different phospholipid components, and to efficiently regulate the motional freedom and hydrophobicity of membranes, so that they can withstand even drastic changes in environmental conditions, such as high external hydrostatic pressure.

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