Sphingomyelin interfacial behavior: The impact of changing acyl chain composition

Xin Min Li, Janice M. Smaby, Maureen M. Momsen, Howard L. Brockman, Rhoderick E Brown

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110 Scopus citations


Sphingomyelins (SMs) containing homogeneous acyl chains with 12, 14, 16, 18, 24, or 26 carbons were synthesized and characterized using an automated Langmuir-type film balance. Surface pressure was monitored as a function of lipid molecular area at constant temperatures between 10°C and 30°C. SM containing lauroyl (12:0)acyl chains displayed only liquid-expanded behavior. Increasing the length of the saturated acyl chain (e.g., 14:0, 16:0, or 18:0) resulted in liquid-expanded to condensed two-dimensional phase transitions at many temperatures in the 10-30°C range. Similar behavior was observed for SMs with lignoceroyl (24:0) or (cerotoyl) 26:0 acyl chains, but isotherms showed only condensed behavior at 10 and 15°C. Insights into the physico- mechanical in-plane interactions occurring within the different SM phases and accompanying changes in SM phase state were provided by analyzing the interfacial area compressibility moduli. At similar surface pressures, SM fluid phases were less compressible than those of phosphatidylcholines with similar chain structures. The area per molecule and compressibility of SM condensed phases depended upon the length of the saturated acyl chain and upon spreading temperature. Spreading of SMs with very long saturated acyl chains at temperatures 30-35°below T(m) resulted in condensed films with lower in-plane compressibilities, but consistently larger cross-sectional molecular areas than the condensed phases achieved by spreading at temperatures only 10-20°below T(m). This behavior is discussed in terms of the enhancement of SM lateral aggregation by temperature reduction, a common approach used during domain isolation from biomembranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1921-1931
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by USPHS Grant GM45928 (to R.E.B.) and the Hormel Foundation. The automated Langmuir film balance used in this study received major support from USPHS Grants HL49180 and HL17371 (to H.L.B.).


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