The naturally occurring milk sphingomyelin is of particular interest owing to its complex composition and involvement in the formation of the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM). Knowledge of membrane organization and nanomechanical stability has proved to be crucial in understanding their properties and functions. In this work, two model membrane systems composed of 1, 2 dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC), egg sphingomyelin (egg-SM) and cholesterol, and DOPC, milk sphingomyelin (milk-SM) and cholesterol were exposed to both RT and 10 °C. The morphological and nanomechanical changes were investigated using atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and force mapping below RT using a designed liquid cell with temperature-control. In both systems, the size and shape of SM/Chol-enriched liquid ordered domains (Lo) and DOPC-enriched liquid disordered phase (Ld) were monitored at controlled temperatures. AFM based force-mapping showed that rupture forces were consistently higher for Lo domains than Ld phases and were decreased for Ld with decreasing temperature while an increase in breakthrough force was observed in Lo domains. More interestingly, dynamic changes and defect formations in the hydrated lipid bilayers were mostly detected at low temperature, suggesting a rearrangement of lipid molecules to relieve additional tension introduced upon cooling. Noteworthy, in these model membrane systems, tension-driven defects generally heal on reheating the sample. The results of this work bring new insights to low temperature induced membrane structural reorganization and mechanical stability changes which will bring us one step closer to understand more complex systems such as the MFGM.

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Keywords Atomic force microscopy, Cholesterol, Force indentation, Force mapping, Low temperature, Milk lipids, Sphingomyelin, Supported lipid bilayers
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Journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Bhojoo, U. (Urvi), Chen, M. (Maohui), & Zou, S. (2018). Temperature induced lipid membrane restructuring and changes in nanomechanics. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes, 1860(3), 700–709. doi:10.1016/j.bbamem.2017.12.008