Cholesterol-rich, liquid-ordered (Lo) domains are believed to be biologically relevant, and yet detailed knowledge about them, especially in live cells under physiological conditions, is elusive. Although these domains have been observed in model membranes, understanding cholesterol-lipid interactions at the molecular level, under controlled lipid mixing, remains a challenge. Further, although there are a number of fluorescent lipid analogs that partition into liquid-disordered (Ld) domains, the number of such analogs with a high affinity for biologically relevant Lo domains is limited. Here, we use a new Bodipy-labeled cholesterol (Bdp-Chol) derivative to investigate membrane fluidity, lipid order, and partitioning in various lipid phases in giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) as a model system. GUVs were prepared from mixtures of various molar fractions of dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, cholesterol, and egg sphingomyelin. The Ld phase domains were also labeled with 1,1′-didodecyl-3,3,3′,3′- tetramethylindocarbocyanine (DiI-C12) for comparison. Two-photon fluorescence lifetime and anisotropy imaging of Bdp-Chol are sensitive to lipid phase domains in GUVs. The fluorescence lifetime of Bdp-Chol in liquid-disordered, single-phase GUVs is 5.50 ± 0.08 ns, compared with 4.1 ± 0.4 ns in the presence of DiI-C12. The observed reduction of fluorescence lifetime is attributed to Förster resonance energy transfer between Bdp-Chol (a donor) and DiI-C12 (an acceptor) with an estimated efficiency of 0.25 and donor-acceptor distance of 2.6 ± 0.2 nm. These results also indicate preferential partitioning (Kp = 1.88) of Bdp-Chol into the Lo phase. One-photon, time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy of Bdp-Chol decays as a triexponential in the lipid bilayer with an average rotational diffusion coefficient, lipid order parameter, and membrane fluidity that are sensitive to phase domains. The translational diffusion coefficient of Bdp-Chol, as measured using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, is (7.4 ± 0.3) x 10-8 cm2/s and (5.0 ± 0.2) x 10-8 cm2/s in the Ld and L o phases, respectively. Experimental translational/rotational diffusion coefficient ratios are compared with theoretical predictions using the hydrodynamic model (Saffman-Delbrück). The results suggest that Bdp-Chol is likely to form a complex with other lipid molecules during its macroscopic diffusion in GUV lipid bilayers at room temperature. Our integrated, multiscale results demonstrate the potential of this cholesterol analog for studying lipid-lipid interactions, lipid order, and membrane fluidity of biologically relevant Lo domains.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant MCB0718741 (A.A.H.) and National Institutes of Health grant AG030949 (A.A.H.). Additional support was provided by National Institutes of Health grant HL-083187 (to R.B.), the Penn State Materials Research Institute, and the Penn State Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (supported by National Science Foundation grant DMR-0213623), and the Lehigh-Penn State Center for Optical Technologies (supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).