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Thermodynamics of lipid multilamellar vesicles in presence of sterols at high hydrostatic pressure

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The measurement of thermodynamic variables in the presence of cholesterol in membranes is crucial to understanding the physics and mechanics that underlie the function of biomembranes. The present study proposes to combine two techniques to access the thermodynamic variables and thus allow a better understanding of the dynamics of biomembranes at the molecular level.

We compared the effect of cholesterol at different concentration on the phase behaviour of DMPC [1] multilamellar vesicles. We used pressure perturbation differential scanning calorimetry (PPC) that studies a system on the whole by giving access to relevant thermodynamic quantities, and elastic incoherent neutron scattering (EINS) that probes local motions of a system at the atomic level by allowing extraction of dynamical parameters. PPC revealed that the volume expansion coefficient of DMPC and DMPC/Cholesterol samples with 13 and 25 mol% cholesterol is a linear function of the heat capacity measured by differential scanning calorimetry. Neutron backscattering spectroscopy showed that the mean square displacements of H atoms do exhibit an increase with temperature and a decrease under increasing pressure. Cholesterol added at concentrations of 25 and 50 mol% led to suppression of the main phase transition.

Taking advantage of these results, the present study aims (i) to show that calorimetry and EINS using the Bicout and Zaccai model [2] equally permit to get access to thermodynamic quantities characterizing pure DMPC and DMPC/cholesterol mixtures, thus directly confirming the theoretical method, and (ii) to validate our approach as function of temperature and of pressure, as both are equally important and complementary thermodynamic variables.

Sketch of lipids in presence or not of cholesterol and the corresponding heat capacity profiles.

Voir en ligne : J. Peters, J. Marion, F. J. Becher, M. Trapp, T. Gutberlet, D. J. Bicout & T. Heimburg , Scientific Reports 7, 15339 (2017)


[2Bicout & Zaccai, 2001, Biophys J 80, 1115-1123