Utilization of monensin for detection of microdomains in cholesterol containing membrane

S. Bransburg-Zabary, E. Nachliel, M. Gutman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of cholesterol on the monensin mediated proton-cation exchange reaction was measured in the time-resolved domain. The experimental system consisted of a black lipid membrane equilibrated with monensin (Nachliel, E., Finkelstein, Y. and Gutman, M. (1996) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1285, 131-145). The membrane separated two compartments containing electrolyte solutions and pyranine (8-hydroxypyrene 1,3,6-trisulfonate) was added on to one side of the membrane. A short laser pulse was used to cause a brief transient acidification of the pyranine-containing solution and the resulting electric signal, derived from proton-cation exchange, was measured in the microsecond time domain. Incorporation of cholesterol had a clear effect on the electric transients as measured with Na+ or K+ as transportable cations. The measured transients were subjected to rigorous analysis based on numeric integration of coupled, non-linear, differential rate equations which correspond with the perturbed multi-equilibria state between all reactants present in the system. The various kinetic parameters of the reaction and their dependence on the cholesterol content had been determined. On the basis of these observations we can draw the following conclusions: (1) Cholesterol perturbed the homogeneity of the membrane and microdomains were formed, having a composition that differed from the average value. The ionophore was found in domains which were practically depleted of phosphatidylserine. (2) The diffusivity of the protonated monensin (MoH) was not affected by the presence of cholesterol, indicating that the viscosity of-the central layer of the membrane was unaltered. (3) The diffusivity of the monensin metal complexes (MoNa and MoK) was significantly increased upon addition of cholesterol. As the viscosity along the cross membranal diffusion route is unchanged, the enhanced motion of the MoNa and MoK is attributed to variations of the electrostatic potential within the domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-154
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Dec 1996


  • Cholesterol
  • Microdomain
  • Monensin
  • Polarization
  • Time-resolved polarization


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