Fructans, a family of oligo- and polyfructoses, are implicated to play a drought-protecting role in plants. Inulin-type fructan is able to preserve the membrane barrier during dehydration. However, whether other fructans would be able to perform this function is unknown. In addition, almost nothing is known about the organization of these systems, which could give insight into the protective mechanism. To get insight into these questions the effect of different fructans on phosphatidylcholine-based model systems under conditions of dehydration was analyzed. Using a vesicle leakage assay, it was found that both levan- and inulin-type fructans protected the membrane barrier. This suggests that fructans in general would be able to protect the membrane barrier function. Furthermore, both fructan-types inhibited vesicle fusion to a large extent as measured using a lipid-mixing assay. Using x-ray diffraction, it was found that in the presence of both inulin- and levan-type fructans the lamellar repeat distance increased considerably. From this it was concluded that fructans are present between the lipid bilayers during drying. Furthermore, they stabilize the Lα phase. In contrast to fructans, dextran did not increase the lamellar repeat distance and it even promoted L β phase formation. These data support the hypothesis that fructans can have a membrane-protecting role during dehydration, and give insight into the mechanism of protection.
Vereyken, I. J., Chupin, V., Islamov, A., Kuklin, A., Hincha, D. K., & De Kruijff, B. (2003). The Effect of Fructan on the Phospholipid Organization in the Dry State. Biophysical Journal, 85(5), 3058–3065. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(03)74724-9