Effect of glucosylceramide on the biophysical properties of fluid membranes

Ana R.P. Varela, Amélia M.P.S. Gonçalves Da Silva, Alexander Fedorov, Anthony H. Futerman, Manuel Prieto, Liana C. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glucosylceramide (GlcCer), a relevant intermediate in the pathways of glycosphingolipid metabolism, plays key roles in the regulation of cell physiology. The molecular mechanisms by which GlcCer regulates cellular processes are unknown, but might involve changes in membrane biophysical properties and formation of lipid domains. In the present study, fluorescence spectroscopy, confocal microscopy and surface pressure-area (π-A) measurements were used to characterize the effect of GlcCer on the biophysical properties of model membranes. We show that C16:0-GlcCer has a high tendency to segregate into highly ordered gel domains and to increase the order of the fluid phase. Monolayer studies support the aggregation propensity of C16:0-GlcCer. π-A isotherms of single C16:0-GlcCer indicate that bilayer domains, or crystal-like structures, coexist within monolayer domains at the air-water interface. Mixtures with POPC exhibit partial miscibility with expansion of the mean molecular areas relative to the additive behavior of the components. Moreover, C16:0-GlcCer promotes morphological alterations in lipid vesicles leading to formation of flexible tubule-like structures that protrude from the fluid region of the bilayer. These results support the hypothesis that alterations in membrane biophysical properties induced by GlcCer might be involved in its mechanism of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1122-1130
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica Et Biophysica Acta-Biomembranes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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