Cholesterol (Chol) is an important lipid in cellular membranes functioning both as a membrane fluidity regulator, permeability regulator and co-factor for some membrane proteins, e.g. G-protein coupled receptors. It also participates in the formation of signaling platforms and gives the membrane more mechanical strenght to prevent osmotic lysis of the cell. The sterol structure is very conserved and already minor structural modifications can completely abolish its membrane functions. The right interaction with adjacent lipids and the preference of certain lipid structures over others are also key factors in determining the membrane properties of cholesterol. Because of the many important properties of cholesterol it is of value to understand the forces and structural properties that govern the membrane behavior of this sterol. In this thesis we have used established fluorescence spectroscopy methods to study the membrane behavior of both cholesterol and some of its 3β-modified analogs. Using several fluorescent probes we have established how the acyl chain order of the two main lipid species, sphingomyelin (SM) and phosphatidylcholine (PC) affect sterol partitioning as well as characterized the membrane properties of 3β-aminocholesterol and cholesteryl phosphocholine. We concluded that cholesterol prefers SM over PC at equal acyl chain order, indicating that other structural properties besides the acyl chain order are important for sphingomyelin-sterol interactions. A positive charge at the 3β position only caused minor changes in the sterol membrane behavior compared to cholesterol. A large phosphocholine head group caused a disruption in membrane packing together with other membrane lipids with large head groups, but was also able to form stable fluid bilayers together with ceramide and cholesterol. The Ability of the large head group sterol to form bilayers together with ceramide was further explored in the last paper where cholesteryl phosphocholine/ceramide (Chol-PC/Cer) complexes were successfully used to transfer ceramide into cultured cells.
|Publication status||Published - 2014|
|MoE publication type||G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)|