Cholesterol depletion increases membrane stiffness of aortic endothelial cells

Biophysical Journal
Fitzroy J ByfieldIrena Levitan


This study has investigated the effect of cellular cholesterol on membrane deformability of bovine aortic endothelial cells. Cellular cholesterol content was depleted by exposing the cells to methyl-beta-cyclodextrin or enriched by exposing the cells to methyl-beta-cyclodextrin saturated with cholesterol. Control cells were treated with methyl-beta-cyclodextrin-cholesterol at a molar ratio that had no effect on the level of cellular cholesterol. Mechanical properties of the cells with different cholesterol contents were compared by measuring the degree of membrane deformation in response to a step in negative pressure applied to the membrane by a micropipette. The experiments were performed on substrate-attached cells that maintained normal morphology. The data were analyzed using a standard linear elastic half-space model to calculate Young elastic modulus. Our observations show that, in contrast to the known effect of cholesterol on membrane stiffness of lipid bilayers, cholesterol depletion of bovine aortic endothelial cells resulted in a significant decrease in membrane deformability and a corresponding increase in the value of the elastic coefficient of the membrane, indicating that cholesterol-depleted cells are stiffer t...Continue Reading


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