Cholesterol in unusual places
Journal of Physics: Conference Series
Cholesterol is an essential component of mammalian cells, and is required for building and maintaining cell membranes, regulating their fluidity, and possibly acting as an antioxidant. Cholesterol has also been implicated in cell signaling processes, where it has been suggested that it triggers the formation of lipid rafts in the plasma membrane. Aside from cholesterol's physiological roles, what is also becoming clear is its poor affinity for lipids with unsaturated fatty acids as opposed to saturated lipids, such as sphingomyelin with which it forms rafts. We previously reported the location of cholesterol in membranes with varying degrees of acyl chain unsaturation as determined by neutron diffraction studies (Harroun et al 2006 Biochemistry 45, 1227; Harroun et al 2008 Biochemistry 47, 7090). In bilayers composed of phosphatidylcholine (PC) molecules with a saturated acyl chain at the sn-1 position or a monounsaturated acyl chain at both sn-1 and sn-2 positions, cholesterol was found in its much-accepted "upright" position. However, in dipolyunsaturated 1,2-diarachidonyl phosphatidylcholine (20:4-20:4PC) membranes the molecule was found sequestered in the center of the bilayers. In further experiments, mixing l-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl phosphatidylcholine (16:0-18:1 PC) with 20:4-20:4PC resulted in cholesterol reverting to its upright orientation at approximately 40 mol% 16:0-18:1 PC. Interestingly, the same effect was achieved with only 5 mol% 1,2-dimyristoyl phosphatidylchoile (14:0-14:0PC). © 2010 IOP Publishing Ltd.
Kučerka, N.; Nieh, M. P.; Marquardt, D.; Harroun, T. A.; Wassail, S. R.; and Katsaras, J.. (2010). Cholesterol in unusual places. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 251 (1).