, Volume 33, Issue 8, pp 732-741
Date: 25 Jun 2004

Vesicle fluctuation analysis of the effects of sterols on membrane bending rigidity

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Abstract

Sterols are regulators of both biological function and structure. The role of cholesterol in promoting the structural and mechanical stability of membranes is widely recognized. Knowledge of how the related sterols, lanosterol and ergosterol, affect membrane mechanical properties is sparse. This paper presents a comprehensive comparison of the effects of cholesterol, lanosterol, and ergosterol upon the bending elastic properties of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine giant unilamellar vesicles. Measurements are made using vesicle fluctuation analysis, a nonintrusive technique that we have recently improved for determining membrane bending rigidity. Giving a detailed account of the vesicle fluctuation analysis technique, we describe how the gravitational stabilization of the vesicles enhances image contrast, vesicle yield, and the quality of data. Implications of gravity on vesicle behaviour are also discussed. These recent modifications render vesicle fluctuation analysis an efficient and accurate method for determining how cholesterol, lanosterol, and ergosterol increase membrane bending rigidity.