Spectroscopic signatures of bilayer ordering in native biological membranes

Evan J. van Aalst, Collin G. Borcik, Benjamin J. Wylie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Membrane proteins and polycyclic lipids like cholesterol and hopanoids coordinate phospholipid bilayer ordering. This phenomenon manifests as partitioning of the liquid crystalline phase into liquid-ordered (Lo) and liquid-disordered (Ld) regions. In Eukaryotes, microdomains are rich in cholesterol and sphingolipids and serve as signal transduction scaffolds. In Prokaryotes, Lo microdomains increase pathogenicity and antimicrobial resistance. Previously, we identified spectroscopically distinct chemical shift signatures for all-trans (AT) and trans-gauche (TG) acyl chain conformations, cyclopropyl ring lipids (CPR), and hopanoids in prokaryotic lipid extracts and used Polarization Transfer (PT) SSNMR to investigate bilayer ordering. To investigate how these findings relate to native bilayer organization, we interrogate whole cell and whole membrane extract samples of Burkholderia thailendensis to investigate bilayer ordering in situ. In 13C-13C 2D SSNMR spectra, we assigned chemical shifts for lipid species in both samples, showing conservation of lipids of interest in our native membrane sample. A one-dimensional temperature series of PT SSNMR and transverse relaxation measurements of AT versus TG acyl conformations in the membrane sample confirm bilayer ordering and a broadened phase transition centered at a lower-than-expected temperature. Bulk protein backbone Cα dynamics and correlations consistent with lipid-protein contacts within are further indicative of microdomain formation and lipid ordering. In aggregate, these findings provide evidence for microdomain formation in vivo and provide insight into phase separation and transition mechanics in biological membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number183891
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • Hopanoid
  • Lipid microdomain
  • Liquid-ordered
  • Phase transition


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