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Two-Photon Fluorescence Microscopy Observation of Shape Changes at the Phase Transition in Phospholipid Giant Unilamellar Vesicles


Using the sectioning effect of the two-photon fluorescence microscope, we studied the behavior of phospholipid giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) composed of pure diacylphosphatidylcholine phospholipids during the gel-to-liquid crystalline phase transition. We used the well-characterized excitation generalized polarization function (GP(ex)) of 6-dodecanoyl-2-dimethylamine-naphthalene (LAURDAN), which is sensitive to the changes in water content in the lipid vesicles, to monitor the phase transition in the GUVs. Even though the vesicles do not show temperature hysteresis at the main phase transition, we observed different behaviors of the vesicle shape, depending on how the GUV sample reaches the main phase transition. During the cooling cycles, we observed an increase in the vesicle diameter at the phase transition ( approximately 0.5-1%), followed by a decrease in the diameter when the vesicle reached the gel phase. During the heating cycles and close to the phase transition temperature, a surprising behavior is observed, showing a sequence of different vesicle shapes as follows: spherical-polygonal-ellipsoidal. We attribute these changes to the effect of lipid domain coexistence on the macroscopic structure of the GUVs. The "shape hysteresis" in the GUVs is reversible and largely independent of the temperature scan rate. In the presence of 30 mol% of cholesterol the events observed at the phase transition in the GUVs formed by pure phospholipids were absent.

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