Cell membranes have a complex lateral organization featuring domains with distinct composition, also known as rafts, which play an essential role in cellular processes such as signal transduction and protein trafficking. In vivo, perturbations of membrane domains (e.g., by drugs or lipophilic compounds) have major effects on the activity of raft-associated proteins and on signaling pathways, but they are difficult to characterize because of the small size of the domains, typically below optical resolution.
Here we describe the effect of six simple hydrophobic compounds on the lateral organization of phase-separated model membranes consisting of saturated and unsaturated phospholipids and cholesterol. Using molecular simulations, we identify two groups of molecules with distinct behavior: aliphatic compounds promote lipid mixing by distributing at the interface between liquid-ordered and liquid-disordered domains; aromatic compounds, instead, stabilize phase separation by partitioning into liquid-disordered domains and excluding cholesterol from the disordered domains.
- Biochemical simulation
- cell membranes
- Aliphatic compounds