How Cholesterol Stiffens Unsaturated Lipid Membranes

Neutron spin-echo (NSE) spectroscopy, solid-state deuterium nuclear magnetic resonance (2H NMR) spectroscopy, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are reported. Cholesterol locally increases the bending rigidity of DOPC membranes, similar to saturated membranes, by increasing the bilayer’s packing density. All three techniques, inherently sensitive to mesoscale bending fluctuations, show up to a 3-fold increase in effective bending rigidity with increasing cholesterol content approaching a mole fraction of 50%. Our observations are in good agreement with the known effects of cholesterol on the area compressibility modulus and membrane structure, reaffirming membrane structure-property relationships.



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