Structural determinants for partitioning of lipids and proteins between coexisting fluid phases in giant plasma membrane vesicles

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Jan;1778(1):20-32. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2007.08.028. Epub 2007 Sep 12.


The structural basis for organizational heterogeneity of lipids and proteins underlies fundamental questions about the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells. A current hypothesis is the participation of liquid ordered (Lo) membrane domains (lipid rafts) in dynamic compartmentalization of membrane function, but it has been difficult to demonstrate the existence of these domains in live cells. Recently, giant plasma membrane vesicles (GPMVs) obtained by chemically induced blebbing of cultured cells were found to phase separate into optically resolvable, coexisting fluid domains containing Lo-like and liquid disordered (Ld)-like phases as identified by fluorescent probes. In the present study, we used these GPMVs to investigate the structural bases for partitioning of selected lipids and proteins between coexisting Lo-like/Ld-like fluid phases in compositionally complex membranes. Our results with lipid probes show that the structure of the polar headgroups, in addition to acyl chain saturation, can significantly affect partitioning. We find that the membrane anchor of proteins and the aggregation state of proteins both significantly influence their distributions between coexisting fluid phases in these biological membranes. Our results demonstrate the value of GPMVs for characterizing the phase preference of proteins and lipid probes in the absence of detergents and other perturbations of membrane structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / pharmacology
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Detergents / pharmacology
  • Gangliosides / metabolism
  • Glycerophospholipids / metabolism
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism* / drug effects
  • Membrane Fluidity* / drug effects
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Rats
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / metabolism*


  • Antibodies
  • Detergents
  • Gangliosides
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Glycosylphosphatidylinositols
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Unilamellar Liposomes
  • Cholesterol