Cholesterol shows preference for the interior of polyunsaturated lipid membranes

  • Marrink S
  • De Vries A
  • Harroun T
 et al. 
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Recent neutron scattering experiments showed a striking manifestation of the aversion between polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA)-containing lipids and cholesterol. Selectively deuterated cholesterol/ 1,2-diarachidonylphosphatidylcholine (DAPC) samples revealed that the hydroxyl of the sterol resides at the center of the bilayer. Here we use a recently parametrized coarse grain simulation model to shed light on these puzzling experimental observations. Using a simulation setup in close correspondence to the experimental conditions, we reproduce the experimental neutron scattering profiles to a large extent. The simulations allow us to analyze the behavior of cholesterol in detail; we show that the interaction of cholesterol with the PUFA chains of DAPC leads to a fast flip-flop rate for the sterol and an increased preference of the sterol for the unusual location embedded between the monolayer leaflets.

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