Depth-Dependent Segmental Melting of the Sphingomyelin Alkyl Chain in Lipid Bilayers

Hiroshi Tsuchikawa*, Mami Monji, Yuichi Umegawa, Tomokazu Yasuda, J. Peter Slotte, Michio Murata*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    The chain melting of lipid bilayers has often been investigated in detail using calorimetric methods, such as differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and the resultant main transition temperature is regarded as one of the most important parameters in model membrane experiments. However, it is not always clear whether the hydrocarbon chains of lipids are gradually melting along the depth of the lipid bilayer or whether they all melt concurrently in a very narrow temperature range, as implied by DSC. In this study, we focused on stearoyl-d-sphingomyelin (SSM) as an example of raft-forming lipids. We synthesized deuterium-labeled SSMs at the 4′, 10′, and 16′ positions, and their depth-dependent melting was measured using solid-state deuterium NMR by changing the temperature by 1.0 °C, and comparing with that observed from a saturated lipid, palmitoylstearoylphosphatidylcholine (PSPC). The results showed that SSM exhibited a characteristic depth-dependent melting, which was not observed for PSPC. The strong intermolecular hydrogen bonds between the sphingomyelin amide moiety probably caused the chain melting to start from the chain terminus through the middle part and end in the upper part. This depth-dependent melting implies that the small gel-like domains of SSM remain at temperatures slightly above the main transition temperature. These sphingomyelin features may be responsible for the biological properties of SM-based lipid rafts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number38
    Publication statusPublished - 2022
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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