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29.07.2020: Publication Alert - A Study to Understand and Quantify the Effects of DMSO on Multicomponent Lipid Membranes

Effect of DMSO on the Mechanical and Structural Properties of Model and Biological Membranes


Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is widely used in a number of biological and biotechnological applications, mainly because of its effects on the cell plasma membrane, but the molecular origins of this action are yet to be fully clarified. In this work, we used two- and three-component synthetic membranes (liposomes) and the plasma membrane of human erythrocytes to investigate the effect of DMSO when added to the membrane-solvating environment. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and thermal fluctuation spectroscopy revealed significant differences in the response of the two types of liposome systems to DMSO in terms of the bilayer thermotropic behavior, available free volume of the bilayer, its excess surface area, and bending elasticity. DMSO also alters the mechanical properties of the erythrocyte membrane in a concentration-dependent manner and is capable of increasing membrane permeability to ATP at even relatively low concentrations (3% v/v and above). Taken in its entirety, these results show that DMSO is likely to have a differential effect on heterogeneous biological membranes, depending on their local composition and structure, and could affect membrane-hosted biological functions.

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