IMR Press / FBL / Volume 21 / Issue 6 / DOI: 10.2741/4454

Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.


Paradoxical impact of cholesterol on lipid packing and cell stiffness

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1 Division of Pulmonary Care, Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Front. Biosci. (Landmark Ed) 2016, 21(6), 1245–1259;
Published: 1 June 2016

Cell stiffness or deformability is a fundamental property that is expected to play a major role in multiple cellular functions. It is well known that cell stiffness is dominated by the intracellular cytoskeleton that, together with the plasma membrane, forms a membrane-cytoskeleton envelope. However, our understanding of how lipid composition of plasma membrane regulates physical properties of the underlying cytoskeleton is only starting to emerge. In this review, we first briefly describe the impact of cholesterol on the physical properties of lipid bilayers in model membranes and in living cells, with the dominant effect of increasing the order of membrane lipids and decreasing membrane fluidity. Then, we discuss accumulating evidence that removal of cholesterol, paradoxically, decreases the mobility of membrane proteins and increases cellular stiffness, with both effects being dependent on the integrity of the cytoskeleton. Finally, we discuss emerging evidence that oxidized modifications of low-density lipoproteins (oxLDL) have the same effects on endothelial biomechanical properties as cholesterol depletion, an effect that is mediated by the incorporation of oxysterols into the membrane.

ell stiffness
Cell Biomechanics
Oxidized Lipids
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