This paper describes the application of a solvent-exchange method to prepare supported membranes containing high fractions of cholesterol (up to ~57 mol %) in an apparent equilibrium. The method exploits the phenomenon of reverse-phase evaporation, in which the deposition of lipids in alcohol (e.g., isopropanol) is followed by the slow removal of the organic solvent from the water-alcohol mixture. This in turn induces a series of lyotropic phase transitions successively producing inverse-micelles, monomers, micelles, and vesicles in equilibrium with supported bilayers at the contacting solid surface. By using the standard cholesterol depletion by methyl-β-cyclodextrin treatment, a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring assay confirms that the cholesterol concentration in the supported membranes is comparable to that in the surrounding bulk phase. A quantitative characterization of the biophysical properties of the resultant bilayer, including lateral diffusion constants and phase separation, using epifluorescence microscopy and atomic force microscopy establishes the formation of laterally contiguous supported lipid bilayers, which break into a characteristic domain-pattern of coexisting phases in a cholesterol concentration-dependent manner. With increasing cholesterol fraction in the supported bilayer, the size of the domains increases, ultimately yielding two-dimensional cholesterol bilayer domains near the solubility limit. A unique feature of the approach is that it enables preparation of supported membranes containing limiting concentrations of cholesterol near the solubility limit under equilibrium conditions, which cannot be obtained using conventional techniques (i.e., vesicle fusion).
Tabaei, Seyed R., Joshua A. Jackman, Seong-Oh Kim, Bo Liedberg, Wolfgang Knoll, Atul N. Parikh, Nam-Joon Cho