Transbilayer effects of raft-like lipid domains in asymmetric planar bilayers measured by single molecule tracking

Biophys J. 2006 Nov 1;91(9):3313-26. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.106.091421. Epub 2006 Aug 11.


Cell membranes have complex lipid compositions, including an asymmetric distribution of phospholipids between the opposing leaflets of the bilayer. Although it has been demonstrated that the lipid composition of the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane is sufficient for the formation of raft-like liquid-ordered (l(o)) phase domains, the influence that such domains may have on the lipids and proteins of the inner leaflet remains unknown. We used tethered polymer supports and a combined Langmuir-Blodgett/vesicle fusion (LB/VF) technique to build asymmetric planar bilayers that mimic plasma membrane asymmetry in many ways. We show that directly supported LB monolayers containing cholesterol-rich l(o) phases are inherently unstable when exposed to water or vesicle suspensions. However, tethering the LB monolayer to the solid support with the lipid-anchored polymer 1,2-dimyristoyl phophatidylethanolamine-N-[poly(ethylene glycol)-triethoxysilane] significantly improves stability and allows for the formation of complex planar-supported bilayers that retain >90% asymmetry for 1-2 h. We developed a single molecule tracking (SPT) system for the study of lipid diffusion in asymmetric bilayers with coexisting liquid phases. SPT allowed us to study in detail the diffusion of individual lipids inside, outside, or directly opposed to l(o) phase domains. We show here that l(o) phase domains in one monolayer of an asymmetric bilayer do not induce the formation of domains in the opposite leaflet when this leaflet is composed of palmitoyl-oleoyl phosphatidylcholine and cholesterol but do induce domains when this leaflet is composed of porcine brain phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylserine, and cholesterol. The diffusion of lipids is similar in l(o) and liquid-disordered phase domains and is not affected by transbilayer coupling, indicating that lateral and transverse lipid interactions that give rise to the domain structure are weak in the biological lipid mixtures that were employed in this work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Membrane Fluidity*
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry*
  • Phase Transition
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry*


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Cholesterol
  • 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine