Relating domain size distribution to line tension and molecular dipole density in model cytoplasmic myelin lipid monolayers

Dong Woog Lee, Younjin Min, Prajnaparamitra Dhar, Arun Ramachandran, Jacob N. Israelachvili, Joseph A. Zasadzinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


We fit the size distribution of liquid-ordered (Lo) domains measured from fluorescence images of model cytoplasmic myelin monolayers with an equilibrium thermodynamic expression that includes the competing effects of line tension, λ, dipole density difference, Δm, and the mixing entropy. From these fits, we extract the line tension, λ, and dipole density difference, Δm, between the Lo and liquid-disordered (Ld) phases. Both λ and Δm decrease with increasing surface pressure, Π, although λ?Δm2 remains roughly constant as the monolayer approaches the miscibility surface pressure. As a result, the mean domain size changed little with surface pressure, although the polydispersity increased significantly. The most probable domain radius was significantly smaller than that predicted by the energy alone, showing that the mixing entropy promotes a greater number of smaller domains. Our results also explain why domain shapes are stable; at equilibrium, only a small fraction of the domains are large enough to undergo theoretically predicted shape fluctuations. Monolayers based on the composition of myelin from animals with experimental allergic encephalomyelitis had slightly lower values of λ and Δm, and a higher area fraction of domains, than control monolayers at all Π. While it is premature to generalize these results to myelin bilayers, our results show that the domain distribution in myelin may be an equilibrium effect and that subtle changes in surface pressure and composition can alter the distribution of material in the monolayer, which will likely also alter the interactions between monolayers important to the adhesion of the myelin sheath.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9425-9430
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 7 2011


  • Defects in membranes
  • Entropy of mixing
  • Lipid domains
  • Lipid segregation
  • Myelin membranes


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