Time-resolved fluorescence and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopies were used to investigate the lateral organization of lipids in compositionally uniform and fully equilibrated 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine/cholesterol (POPC/CHOL) liposomes prepared by a recently devised low-temperature trapping method. Independent fluorescence decay lifetime and rotational dynamics parameters of diphenylhexatriene (DPH) chain-labeled phosphatidylcholine (DPH-PC) in these liposomes were recovered from the time-resolved fluorescence measurements as a function of cholesterol molar fraction (XCHOL) at 23°C. The results indicate significantly greater lifetime heterogeneity, shorter average lifetime, rotational correlation time, and lower order parameter of the DPH moiety at XCHOL ≈ 0.40 and 0.50 as compared to the adjacent cholesterol concentrations. Less prominent changes were also detected at, for example, XCHOL ≈ 0.20 and 0.33. These XCHOL's coincide with the "critical" XCHOL's predicted by the previously proposed superlattice (SL) model, thus indicating that POPC and cholesterol molecules tend to form SL domains where the components tend to be regularly distributed. The data also support another prediction of the SL model, namely that lateral packing defects coexist with the ordered SL domains. It appears that unfavorable interaction of the DPH-moiety of DPH-PC with cholesterol results in a preferential partition of DPH-PC to the defect regions. Fourier transform infrared analysis of the native lipid O=P=O, C=O, and C-H vibrational bands of POPC/CHOL liposomes in the absence of DPH-PC revealed an increase in the conformational order of the acyl chains and a decrease in the conformational order (or increased hydration) of the interfacial and headgroup regions at or close to the predicted critical XCHOL's. This provides additional but probe-independent evidence for SL domain formations in the POPC/CHOL bilayers. We propose that the defect regions surrounding the putative SL domains could play an important role in modulating the activity of various membrane-associated enzymes, e.g., those regulating the lipid compositions of cell membranes.