Alteration of lipid membrane rigidity by cholesterol and its metabolic precursors

Horia I. Petrache*, Daniel Harries, V. Adrian Parsegian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Caused by biosynthesis defects, cholesterol deficiency can lead to developmental disorders and malformations, with possible implication of lipid membrane properties. We show that modification of sterol chemical structure alters membrane physical properties significantly. By X-ray diffraction and osmotic stress, we measure changes in the bending rigidity of bilayers containing either cholesterol or one of its metabolic precursors. Membrane elasticity differs dramatically between slightly different sterols and varies in the sequence lanosterol < 7-dehydrocholesterol < lathosterol < cholesterol. We interpret the results in terms of sterol location within lipid structures and modification of lateral stress, a structural feature relevant to interactions within biological membranes. We find that cholesterol is most efficient in enhancing membrane rigidity, a possible clue to why depletion or replacement with other sterols can affect cellular structures.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalMacromolecular Symposia
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Bending rigidity
  • Cholesterol biosynthesis
  • Intrinsic curvature
  • Stress profile
  • X-ray


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