Regulating the size and stabilization of lipid raft-like domains and using calcium ions as their probe

Or Szekely, Yaelle Schilt, Ariel Steiner, Uri Raviv*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We apply a means to probe, stabilize, and control the size of lipid raft-like domains in vitro. In biomembranes the size of lipid rafts is ca. 10-30 nm. In vitro, mixing saturated and unsaturated lipids results in microdomains, which are unstable and coalesce. This inconsistency is puzzling. It has been hypothesized that biological line-active surfactants reduce the line tension between saturated and unsaturated lipids and stabilize small domains in vivo. Using solution X-ray scattering, we studied the structure of binary and ternary lipid mixtures in the presence of calcium ions. Three lipids were used: saturated, unsaturated, and a hybrid (1-saturated-2-unsaturated) lipid that is predominant in the phospholipids of cellular membranes. Only membranes composed of the saturated lipid can adsorb calcium ions, become charged, and therefore considerably swell. The selective calcium affinity was used to show that binary mixtures, containing the saturated lipid, phase separated into large-scale domains. Our data suggests that by introducing the hybrid lipid to a mixture of the saturated and unsaturated lipids, the size of the domains decreased with the concentration of the hybrid lipid, until the three lipids could completely mix. We attribute this behavior to the tendency of the hybrid lipid to act as a line-active cosurfactant that can easily reside at the interface between the saturated and the unsaturated lipids and reduce the line tension between them. These findings are consistent with a recent theory and provide insight into the self-organization of lipid rafts, their stabilization, and size regulation in biomembranes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)14767-14775
Number of pages9
Issue number24
StatePublished - 20 Dec 2011


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